They said that Planet of the Apes was fiction. They were wrong! Some of us have always had an inkling that monkeys are far smarter than they let on. And now they’ve figured out what they have to do to escape zoos! Well, at least one monkey has that information. But I’m pretty sure others will soon follow suit.
Visitors at Zhengzhou Zoo in Central China were witnesses to an amazing sight: a cute monkey used a stone to break the glass wall of its enclosure. However, zoo visitors weren’t the only ones surprised — the Columbian white-faced Capuchin scarpered once it realized what it had done. Read on to indulge in Bored Panda’s exclusive in-depth interview with Professor Ian C. Colquhoun from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario.
The Daily Mail writes that one tourist, Mr. Wang, said that “the monkey was sharpening the stone, then it started hitting it on the glass. The monkey scared itself away, but it came back to take another look and even touched it.” Was what the monkey did simply an accident? Or was the Capuchin only pretending to be scared at first, so we wouldn’t suspect it had other nefarious plans?
Meanwhile, one of the zoo’s staff Tian Shuliao told the media that “this monkey is unlike other monkeys. This one knows how to use tools to break walnuts. When we feed walnuts to other monkeys, they only know to bite it. But it had never hit the glass before though. This is the first time. It’s toughened glass, so it would never have got out. After it happened, we picked up all the rocks and took away all its ‘weapons’.”
As surprising as it sounds, quite a few members of the animal kingdom know how to use tools, and not all of them are monkeys. According to Live Science, chimpanzees use stone tools and even make spears for hunting other primates. While crows use a wide range of tools, from twigs to their own feathers.
Sea animals are crafty as well. Everyone’s beloved sea otters (the incredibly fuzzy ones) use rocks to hit abalone shells off of stones and crack them open. Octopuses, on the other hand, go for a more defensive application of tools: they use coconut shells as portable armor.
Just in case there’s a monkey uprising in the near future, I’m going to rewatch all the Planet of the Apes films. There might be some good tips on what to do there. What do you think of animals who can use tools proficiently? Do you think tool-wielding monkeys will build their own empire and take over the planet? Let us know in the comments below.
Bored Panda spoke to Professor Ian C. Colquhoun from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario about Capuchins and other primates.
“From the image of the capuchin using a stone tool to strike and shatter the glass panel of its enclosure that I saw, the thing that struck me was that it appeared to be a white-faced Capuchin (Cebus capuchinus) — for fans of Friends, we’re talking about the same species as “Marcel” the monkey. To my knowledge, white-faced Capuchins have only just recently been observed using tools in the wild.”
“However, stone tool use by the related bearded Capuchin (Sapajus libidinosis), native to northeastern Brazil, has been well-documented since first reports of its use of stone tools to crack open palm nuts appeared back in 2004,” the professor highlighted.
Professor Colquhoun explained that tool use and tool manufacturing are very rare among primate species. “Chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and gorillas have all now been reported to use tools in the wild. While gibbons are also apes, they have not thus far been observed to use tools. Besides Capuchins (a group of New World monkeys), some Old World monkeys, such as crab-eater macaques (Macaca fascicularis) have also been observed to use tools, e.g. to open shell-fish in tidal zone habitats.”
When asked by Bored Panda what he considers to be the most impressive examples of primates using tools, the professor replied: “I think the stone tool use of bearded Capuchins is quite impressive, when you consider that some males are using stones that are about one quarter of their body weight to crack the palm nuts. I also find the first report of gorillas using tools in the wild to be intriguing as it occurred in contexts not directly related to “extractive foraging” and food acquisition (e.g. cracking open palm nuts).”