Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ain't It The truth

A 31 year old Swedish chimpanzee named Santino has behavorial scientists all atwitter because he is demonstrating a very human trait - he plans for the future. He has somehow managed to open up a 401k ... No. He stockpiles weapons (rocks and pieces of concrete) during hours when the zoo is closed and then waits for humans to approach his compound so he can throw these objects at them.

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A canny chimpanzee who calmly collected a stash of rocks and then hurled them at zoo visitors in fits of rage has confirmed that apes can plan ahead just like humans, a Swedish study said Monday.

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.

[...] However, he rarely hit visitors because of his poor aim, and no one was seriously injured in the cases when he did, Osvath said.

He also displays human attributes in that his aim stinks. He couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.

"It could be that he is a genius, only more research will tell. On the other hand our research showed the same in orangutans and bonobos so he is not alone," Call said.

Osvath said the chimpanzee had also been observed tapping on concrete boulders in the park to identify weak parts and then knocking out a piece. If it was too big for throwing, he broke it into smaller pieces, before adding them to his arsenal.

"It is very special that he first realizes that he can make these and then plans on how to use them," Osvath said. "This is more complex than what has been showed before."

The fact that the ape stayed calm while preparing his weapons but used them when he was extremely agitated proves that the planning behavior was not based on an immediate emotional drive, Osvath said.

And, true to life, whenever someone displays talent above and beyond his peers, he receives attention. Sometimes unwanted attention. For all his efforts, Santino suffered the same fate as other low-potential, high-achievers.

He had his balls cut off.

For a while, zoo keepers tried locking Santino up in the morning so he couldn't collect ammunition for his assaults, but he remained aggressive. They ultimately decided to castrate him in the autumn last year, but will have to wait until the summer to see if that helps.

Right. Maybe he'll think his nuts went south because he kept missing. Now his aim will improve.

It stands to reason that monkeys would demonstrate the same ability to plan ahead like other animals. Bears gorge themselves in preparation for winter hibernation, they learn to pop open car doors to get at food. Even ants store provisions, they make slaves of other insects. Given the proper circumstances/motivation, animals are capable of rather amazing things.

When Santino starts casting lead bullets and collecting sulphur, charcoal and saltpeter for making black powder, give me a call.

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