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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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  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:05PM (#27157131)

    No. Elephants don't bring sticks and rocks to scare away lions they regularly meet at yearly watering holes.

    This involved:
    - detection of arbitrary cycles
    - planning for how to deal with them
    - relatively elaborate creation of tools to support plan

    Pretty exciting stuff indeed.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:15PM (#27157267) Journal

    They will fondle themselves in front of you, throw stuff at you, and even be very violent should it be their wish

    I'll just leave this [esquire.com] here.

  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nobdoor ( 1496229 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:26PM (#27157439)
    It's arrogant and naive to think humans have a 'much more advanced ability to think ahead' than animals.

    Animals just don't tend to plan ahead"

    Please. Any kid with a subscription to zoobooks can tell you about arctic foxes burying portions of a kill for later use during winter. And what other animal has raped and exploited nature for its own immediate gains? Lets see where global warming takes us, then I'll ask you how good we are at 'thinking ahead'.

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:33PM (#27157581) Journal

    Animals just don't tend to plan ahead, and it's exciting that this one did.

    I wonder what all the animals that prepare to hibernate in the winter would think of your statement?

    Regardless, this may interest you: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/09/09/1825206 [slashdot.org]

    A parrot (now dead) that understood cause and effect. If he answered a question correctly, like counting the number of blocks of a certain colour, he was allowed a treat. (only if he asked for it)

    If he got it wrong, no treat. Apparently he learned not to ask for treats after getting the answer wrong, which unless I'm mistaken (quite likely - I'm not an expert :P ) means he also re-examined his answers after giving them.

    Pretty smart bird. Doesn't really surprise me that a genetically closer mammal was able to prepare for a future event.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:51PM (#27157865)

    I wonder what all the animals that prepare to hibernate in the winter would think of your statement?

    You are under the assumption that it is planning that causes an animal to prepare to hibernate and not pure instinct leading them by the nose.

    You don't eat because you realize that if don't various mechanisms in your body are going to fail. You eat because you are hungry. The same is true for hibernation, mating, and a pile of other "planned" behaviors. Two deer don't bang in the fall because they realize that this is their chance to make babies and if they miss the window they will have none. They got at it because they are horny.

  • Who's Dumber Now? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hduff ( 570443 ) <hoytduff.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:03PM (#27158053) Homepage Journal

    I am far from an animal-rights activist, but my observations have been that humans generally consider non-human life to be really, really dumb. That's really just a way for us to feel superior regardless of any uncomfortable reality.

    Shamefully, we even go so far as to make those distinctions between groups of humans.

    It would seem that we are not so smart as we think and others are smarter than we feel comfortable with.

    Big surprise . . .

  • Re:Jane Goodal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:05PM (#27158081)
    The we'd see more of this behavior. [janegoodall.org]
  • by dtml-try MyNick ( 453562 ) <litheran@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:27PM (#27158329)

    Arguably, he demonstrated more foresight and planning than the primates running the investment banks on Wall Street.

    This is that far from the truth as you might think ;)
    A while ago a Dutch TV show did a experiment on this very subject.

    They had let a group of apes handpick a bunch of stocks and let a group of notable bankers do the same.

    After 1 month the apes had yielded a higher net profit then the bankers did.....

    Of course this was for shits and giggles but very funny nontheless.

  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:37PM (#27158447)

    >This involved:
    >- detection of arbitrary cycles
    >- planning for how to deal with them
    >- relatively elaborate creation of tools to support plan

    I would even speculate that there is an element of "avoiding being caught executing the plan."
    Does that imply a guilty conscience to some degree, or only fear of his handlers?

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by techess ( 1322623 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:41PM (#27158523)

    One of my favorite articles showing that animals plan ahead:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1543432/Birds-not-so-stupid-after-all.html [telegraph.co.uk]

    And birds are often considered "stupid" compared to primates.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Knowbuddy ( 21314 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:43PM (#27158549) Homepage Journal

    Any zookeeper who has ever worked primates would tell you that this is pretty typical.

    My wife worked as a keeper at a prominent chimp and orangutan sanctuary for several years. She would come home with tales that would make your skin crawl of how smart the apes (both chimps and orangutans) are. It turns out that the OUs (you don't say "orangs", as it offends some of the more hard-core keepers) are the more cunning of the two -- she likened them to engineers.

    Some examples:

    • An orangutan who kept a bit of metal in between his bottom lip and teeth, using it to try to pick the locks at night when the keepers weren't around. After they finally caught him doing it, they went back and reviewed the tapes and saw that he'd been at it for weeks.
    • An orangutan who threw her baby onto the hotwire (electrified fence) to use as an insulating glove to get herself over it.
    • An orangutan who used a sweater in the same hotwire-insulating capacity. (OUs love sweaters, shirts, and dresses.)
    • Chimpanzees that would hear people approaching, then position themselves just close enough to the walkway to be able to urinate and/or masturbate onto the guests (generally not the keepers).
    • An orangutan who used a hard plastic toy to chip away at the concrete substrate (foundation) of his enclosure for days, until he finally managed to get to the bare rebar beneath.

    Did you know that the apes you see in TV ads (such as CareerBuilder) and films (such as Dunston Checks In) are never more than 3 or 4 years old, but have a lifespan only a little shorter than humans? 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. (Roughly that of a 4- to 6-year-old child.)

    After that, they are retired and put in cages (rarely zoos) for the rest of their lives. The entertainers wash their hands of them, then your tax dollars are spent to maintain them for the next 40+ years. Depending on the facility, this can be as much as $20,000USD per ape per year.

    So every time you see a "funny monkey video", think about how much of your paycheck is going to support that ape in a few years.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:50PM (#27158653) Journal

    Chimps are very bad in hand / eye coordination.

    If you make experiments where they have to throw something at a 1 yard big target, 10 yards far away, they splatter the whole area 10 yards left and right of the target. Basically the same is true for distance.

    Chimps "love" to throw stuff at others, other chimps or leopards or what ever seems threatening ... but they don't throw stuff during hunting, because they basically never hit anything (and you can not train them to hit).


  • by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:01PM (#27158829)
    Bankers or stockbrokers? Because they're very different. You'd expect bankers to look for a relatively conservative growth model, which means there's a perfectly good chance that over the short term the chimps picks would outperform the bankers. Over the long term this wouldn't tend to be true.
  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by poena.dare ( 306891 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:26PM (#27159211)

    Close but not entirely acurate. Let me fix that for you:

    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 hundreds of years people with dark skin were vilified as subhuman, tortured, murdered, and treated as furniture by people with light skin. This is called sensitivity. It is a civilizing concept and sometimes an imperfect approach. Regardless, sensitivity reduces societal friction.

    Case in point: hardly anybody gets upset these days if you grouse about filthy pinched-face Visigoths in public.

  • Re:Translation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @08:59PM (#27160405)

    There's an ultra depressing postscript to this story too

    "We are not alone in the world within. There are other creatures who have this special consciousness that is said to be uniquely human."

    Osvath interviewed zookeepers at Furuvik and examined records of the chimp's behaviour. He found that Santino only gathered rocks and made concrete missiles when the zoo was closed. He gave up the behaviour completely when the zoo was shut over the winter.

    The zookeepers recently decided that an operation was the best way of controlling Santino's behaviour.

    "They have castrated the poor guy. They hope that his hormone levels will decrease and that will make him less prone to throw stones. He's already getting fatter and he likes to play much more now than before. Being agitated isn't good for him," said Osvath.

    It's like something out of Planet of the Apes.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @09:32PM (#27160725) Homepage

    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.

    Dunno about you but I indulge in cogent thought entirely by instinct.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xouumalperxe ( 815707 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @05:54AM (#27163993)

    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.

    To expand on the point, and to show one of the more elaborate examples: New Caledonian Crows [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pentagram ( 40862 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @05:57AM (#27164005) Homepage

    Because building a nest is genetically wired into the bird.

    I wasn't aware that we had decoded genomes to that level of detail.

    We don't need to. It's easy to test: hatch and bring up a bird in isolation from the rest of its species. If it starts building nests (maybe you'd have to artificially inseminate it first, not sure what triggers the behaviour) then you can fairly safely conclude that it is instinct rather than learnt behaviour. And I believe this is what happens.

    Personally I find it incredible that behaviour so specific can be encoded in the genome, but it seems to be the case.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by I cant believe its n ( 1103137 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:20AM (#27164145) Journal
    I'm on your side Hurricane. Humans are special (but not that special)

    I have actually seen our dog understand how to catch rodents. The insight was an obvious watershed, because he went from zero successes over 5 or 6 years, to multiple successes per month for the rest of his "active" years after the realization:

    Over here we have a type of rodent(in swedish they are called Skogssork, similar to or the same as Bank Voles) which creates a nest for its family by digging tunnel systems in the dirt. These tunnels can be several meters long so the Voles can exit the nest at many places.
    Our dog had for many (annoying) years stood barking with his nose stuck down any of the tunnel openings, trying to dig his way to the Voles. He did this for hours at end and it was his best passtime.

    One day when he had barked into an opening, I happened to be nearby and I saw a Vole exiting the nest by an opening far away from where our dog was, it having reacted to the dogs threat. I called out to our dog to chase it. Our dog saw the Vole and tried to get it, but could not catch it in time before it went underground again.

    Now comes the cool thing:
    He then (after years of stupid barking down tunnel openings), went to the opening where the Vole had gone in, barked really loud, and then silently snuck back to the opposite side of the nest where he waited silently. After many years of pointless barking, he finally caught his first Vole. After that day our dog regularly brought home Voles, because he had understood how to outthink his rodent enemy.
  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jlehtira ( 655619 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @08:41AM (#27165099) Journal

    Only intelligent animals keep other animals in cages.

    Herding Aphids: How 'Farmer' Ants Keep Control Of Their Food [sciencedaily.com]: ants have been known to bite the wings off the aphids in order to stop them from getting away and depriving the ants of one of their staple foods: the sugar-rich sticky honeydew which is excreted by aphids when they eat plants.

  • Natural Selection (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stratocastr ( 1234756 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @10:51AM (#27166923)

    Could this mean that evolution is at work here and that chimps are beginning to exhibit behavior that they previously were incapable of?

  • Re:Translation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @11:02AM (#27167105)

    My dog does the same thing.

    We went bird hunting. He pointed a rabbit. I shocked him via a remote shock collar. This scenario repeated a few times. Now when we go bird hunting he has decided to no longer point rabbits because he has deduced, correctly, that I will shock him if he does.

    He didn't really prepare any materials though, and I didn't RTFA, so maybe this is something widly different.

    I think many different animals exhibit complex behavior that people see as simple because it is common. My dog's natural inclination is to point at every interesting thing he finds. Through repeated exposure I've modified that inclination. I don't think it matters much whether that modification was purposeful on my part or accidental on the part of strangers visiting his kennel.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.