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Chimp Found Plotting Against Zoo Guests 435

rjshirts writes "In further proof that Planet of the Apes is coming to pass, researchers in Stockholm, Sweden have proof that primates can plan ahead. From the article: 'Santino the chimpanzee's anti-social behavior stunned both visitors and keepers at the Furuvik Zoo but fascinated researchers because it was so carefully prepared. According to a report in the journal Current Biology, the 31-year-old alpha male started building his weapons cache in the morning before the zoo opened, collecting rocks and knocking out disks from concrete boulders inside his enclosure. He waited until around midday before he unleashed a "hailstorm" of rocks against visitors, the study said.'"


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Chimp Found Plotting Against Zoo Guests

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  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @04:44PM (#27156801) Homepage Journal

    Translation: "I'm an intelligent primate who doesn't like being caged up for your amusement."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @04:57PM (#27157007)

    In the bigger picture of things, chimps aren't so very different from us. Roll our technology back 50,000 years, and hairstyles become the most immediately obvious difference.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @04:59PM (#27157037)
    I don't think that the monkey had that bad of aim. He managed to hit people from their cage described by TFA as: "The attacks were only directed at humans viewing the apes across the moat surrounding the island compound where they were held."

    I don't know how many people I could hit from across a moat. Just saying...
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:11PM (#27157215)
    should throw some rocks back, and teach the little bastard a lesson.
  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:16PM (#27157281) Homepage Journal

    Because it's an aspect of chimpanzee intelligence that hadn't previously been observed, apparently.

    Years ago I read about some animal sanctuary where they were trying to keep chimpanzees in captivity. They had to run the place like a real jail for humans. If you forget to lock a door in (say) the elephant enclosure at the zoo you would be okay for a while. Not so with chimps.

    I am surprised that anybody is surprised by this. Chimpanzees are nasty scheming vicious murderous animals. Just like us.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Experiment 626 ( 698257 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:36PM (#27157631)

    Comparing Bush to a chimp is considered fair game. Comparing Obama to one is considered unacceptable. One president is afforded better treatment and respect because of the color of his skin, and somehow this is touted as preventing rather than exemplifying racism.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:48PM (#27157813)

    Recognizing a scary object is not the same thing as remembering that a scary object might appear at a certain interval. If you're cat remembered that you took it to the vet on March 10, 2008, too, and it hid in the garage yesterday for that reason, then you'd have a scientific breakthrough.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:48PM (#27157819) Homepage Journal

    Any kid with a subscription to zoobooks can tell you about arctic foxes burying portions of a kill for later use during winter.

    There is a VERY important difference here. Arctic foxes don't survive through a few winters without a food cache and think "hey I bet it's going to do that again next year, maybe I should stash some food this summer so I have more to eat next winter?". Evolution has taught them to do that. Same as any other instinctual behavior in any other animal. Babies don't learn to suck the tit.

    These chimps identified a pattern, and prepared in advance to benefit themselves when they expected it to repeat. Gathering rocks in the morning to attack tourists in the afternoon is not evolutionary adaptation. Something like that could become an evolutionary behavioral adaptation, but not from 100 years of zoos.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:01PM (#27158015)

    Years ago I read about some animal sanctuary where they were trying to keep chimpanzees in captivity. They had to run the place like a real jail for humans. If you forget to lock a door in (say) the elephant enclosure at the zoo you would be okay for a while. Not so with chimps.

    I am surprised that anybody is surprised by this.

    I think the key here is that the chimp anticipated future events and planned rather than just showing an understanding of the current situation, which are dramatically different capabilities. A chimp realizing the door is unlocked is one thing, that is interesting enough given what we usually think of non-human intelligence (I'd say ignorance rather than arrogance, I'm not around a lot of chimps). It's another to demonstrate that the chimp can forecast events that haven't occoured yet, this is something that humans seem barely capable of.

    Maybe something in TFA backs me up on this... Holy crap, suprise of suprises, IT DOES!

    "These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way," said the author of the report, Lund University Ph.D. student Mathias Osvath. "It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events."...

    The observations confirmed the result of a staged laboratory experiment reported in 2006 by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. In that case orangutans and bonobos were able to figure out which tool would work in an effort to retrieve grapes, and were able to remember to bring that tool along hours later.

    To be honest, I'm suprised that you're suprised that people who study chimps are suprised by this. These seem to be people who know chimps pretty well, if this were an old result, you'd think they wouldn't be wasting their time. Whenever I've thought an expert in a field I don't know as well is wasting their time, I usually come to realize that I was actually not understanding the situation.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pluther ( 647209 ) <pluther@usa.EEEnet minus threevowels> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:04PM (#27158075) Homepage

    One president is afforded better treatment and respect because of the color of his skin

    You really believe that that's the only difference between the two men?

  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:11PM (#27158151) Homepage
    It must be an instinct because an animal has to do these things before its first winter. A squirrel without its food supply (or fat, if it hibernates) will simply die.
  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Slumdog ( 1460213 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:27PM (#27158331)

    And you cannot represent every statement of concepts in a purely mathematical expression.

    Yes we can, it is the whole point of mathematics.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:29PM (#27158343)

    One president is afforded better treatment and respect because of the color of his skin

    Nope, I shouldn't have to tell you this, but comparing blacks to monkeys is just dripping racism, so you can't use that slur without appearing racist. You can still mock him for being a slimy chicago politico or something - that's OK.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bhagwad ( 1426855 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:41PM (#27158511) Homepage

    In other news, birds build nests before hatching eggs. Elephants travel days to go to salt-licks. Spiders build webs before catching prey.

    I'm not saying that these aren't different from what this ape has done, but let us better characterize what that difference is first. How is building a pile of stones to throw different than a bird building a nest before laying eggs? Let us be careful and differentiate between planning, intentional planning, and be wary of attributing planning to behavior that **looks** human.

    I would guess that the difference lies in the fact that the Chimps behavior was not a product of instinct, but that of cogent thought.

    One might argue that birds building a nest before laying eggs is not forethought, but merely programming, as is the building of a web by a spider.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:42PM (#27158535)

    How is building a pile of stones to throw different than a bird building a nest before laying eggs?

    Because building a nest is genetically wired into the bird. Make the bird sterile, and it'll keep building nests anyway. Moreover, it's a behavior which has existed for millions of years. It's a completely different phenomenon than a chimp learning to use objects as weapons.

    The big thing is that it demonstrates that chimpanzees have some rudimentary understanding of time. He's obviously able to observe his current situation, remember it as a past event, detect a recurring pattern, deduce that it's likely to repeat in the future, decide on an action to be carried out at a future time, and prepare materials required to carry it out. That's no small feat.

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:48PM (#27158621)

    To be fair, after years of juvenile Bush-bashing by the democrats around here, it's kind of nice to see republicans returning the favour :)

    During the Bush presidency there were WAY too many comments just like his which got modded "funny" or "insightful". Maybe seeing it from the other side will help people realize that such idiotic partisan drivel should be modded "troll", regardless of which party it's aimed at.

  • Re:Translation (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:02PM (#27158855)

    I don't think so. Whites are called all sorts of derogatory things all the time and nobody bats an eye over it. The movie 'white men can't jump' is a perfect example. If you're a white kid and you have to go through a school full of minorities, expect to be harassed and called names all the time.

    It is a double standard that exists - whites can be bashed and blamed but others cannot.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ross.w ( 87751 ) <rwonderley@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:04PM (#27158875) Journal
    Your cat's smarter than ours. When we bring the cat carrier out, he wants to explore it. When he does, we shut him in. Works every time and he hasn't figured it out yet.
  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:12PM (#27159009)
    Yeah, Obama's about twice as incompetent and a thousand times more corrupt.
  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:49PM (#27159541) Homepage

    What exactly makes you think they don't learn from their parents? Squirrels don't exactly grow up in a vacuum.

    I have plenty of ground squirrels [] around, and they are fairly independent animals; they run alone, maintain their personal space, and when they meet it's usually to fight. They do maintain a collective behavior (when a hawk shows up, for example.) However nobody can learn from experience that one hasn't experienced before; and squirrels are not very good in "instruction", whatever you mean by that :-) - it would require fairly elaborate communication between generations, and already in April or May young squirrels live on their own, dig their burrows and such.

    Again, the issue here is that an animal has one and only one chance to make a correct "life vs. death" decision when winter comes, and that decision (gathering food and fattening up) has to be made well ahead of cold time. To make matters worse, this decision is counter-intuitive, since the young squirrel never saw a winter and never participated in preparations. A lone human could figure out the need by reading books; a child could be told to do that by adults; but a small rodent does not have access to such complex communication mechanisms, and by nature is not a herd animal to blindly follow a leader. Other animals, like deer or sheep, are far better in introducing their young to the world.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhagwad ( 1426855 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:50PM (#27159553) Homepage
    One word: Learning.

    A bird doesn't learn how to build a nest. Neither does a spider acquire the experience to spin a web after experimentation. That knowledge is built into them and is instinct, and not cogent though in spite of your high blown words like "multi dimensional gradient" and "quantization".

    Without a doubt, the chimp in question learned a pattern. I leave it as an exercise to you to guess what that pattern was.

    The distinction between instinct and cogent thought is very real unlike what you imply. If spiders had to learn how to spin a web, they would starve, and so in their case, cogent thought is neither needed nor important.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hooya ( 518216 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @08:20PM (#27159933) Homepage

    Another way to look at it is that birds that didn't think they had to build nests to lay eggs in didn't pass on their genetic wisdom since they had no one to pass it on to. So that trait was naturally selected out. At least it can be argued that birds didn't learn to build nests by having experimented with laying eggs without one and then realizing that they actually needed one!

    However, stockpiling stones to fling at visitors aren't (in an obvious way, at least) something that is naturally a survival instinct. Flinging whatever is within reach is - fight or flight. However, foreseeing and preparing for a fight is not. Especially in the environment of a zoo, to which the chimps have only been subjected to for only for about a few hundred years. It had to have been learned. In their lifetime.

    So, wordsmitthing aside, there is a difference and as the parent pointed out - it has to do with learning and applying that knowledge to an anticipated future event.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @08:32PM (#27160111)

    Yes, because the UK's socialist Royal Mail and NHS definitely caused hammer-and-sickle flags to wave over the Houses of Parliament.

  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by A1rmanCha1rman ( 885378 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @08:40PM (#27160193)

    "They're only "cute" when they are very young, and quickly become uncontrollable, no matter how well-trained they are -- precisely because they have that kind of intelligence"

    How about their uncontrollability being down to the fact that they have been sentenced to a life behind bars when they are probably aware that they have committed no social crimes, precisely because they have that kind of intelligence?

  • by I)_MaLaClYpSe_(I ( 447961 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @09:50PM (#27160919)

    Okaaay, first I laughted at the post: WTF, an ape alpha male is upset when he can not control every bit of his sourrundings! ... Do I really need to say it?

  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dspratomo ( 264659 ) <> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:26PM (#27161245)

    True enough. I read somewhere that their sexual behavior is closest to human, even in the rural area in orangutans native habitat, people told their girls to be careful at night while walking alone because they could be raped by orangutans.

  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by everett ( 154868 ) <efeldt&efeldt,com> on Thursday March 12, 2009 @09:51AM (#27166007) Homepage

    Ok, I'll bite on this obvious one. As someone higher in the thread posted "make a bird sterile, and it will still build a nest" is a perfect example of a behavior that isn't cogent. Does this monkey still throw a hail storm of rocks at nothing on days the zoo is closed? This monkey is cogent.

    "Let's ask: On a scale measuring what exactly, with what defined points, is a chimp's behavior doing what exactly on what position, related to that of a bird or spider doing what exactly?"

    Research like this is what will allow us to precisely define such a scale, give it time but don't decry research that is obviously working towards an answer that you seek.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @11:20AM (#27167443) Homepage Journal

    Repeat after me: there is no border between "day" and "night".

    That doesn't mean there is no difference.

    If I'm working on a mathematical proof, I'm reasonably sure that what I'm doing can't be called "instinctual".

    On the other hand, I was once walking down a city street just before dawn, and I saw an absolutely huge gray animal shambling down the sidewalk; it was gray and furry and about the size of a kid's red wagon. I jumped out into the street -- and act I think can be reasonably called "instinctual" -- from which point I realized that the animal was an absolutely filthy raccoon. The critter was so dirty you could barely make out his mask. He was big and fat for a coon, yes, but not in the fifty to seventy five pound range like I'd thought it had been.

    Both these acts are different, yes, and I think they can reasonably be characterized by different names represent opposite ends of some scale. That doesn't preclude the portion of the scale between those acts from containing a whole spectrum of things that in varying degrees "instinctual" and "cogent".

    It's insisting that there is is a perfectly sharp dividing line between instinct and rationality that non-human animals cannot cross that leads to inane assertions, e.g. the chimp in question had ot be acting "entirely instinctually". Another set of absurdities come from thinking of instincts as simple, having relatively straightforward internal logic. In the case of my raccoon story, lots of really quite interesting cognitive things were going on. One part of my brain acquired the image of the animal, could not recognize it by appearance or context, and decided to prioritize the situation by telling the rest of the brain it was about five times as large as it really was.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...