The Great Ape Behavioral Parallel, part 3

Posted on March 14, 2009 by


(For Parts 1 and 2 please visit the TBRC website at

by Michael C. Mayes and Jeremy D. Wells

A widely publicized study, authored by Mathias Osvath, a Ph.D. candidate at Lund University, seems to indicate some startling information about the intellectual capacities of the chimpanzee. In particular, Osvath studied the territorial displays of a captive chimpanzee named Santino. The observed behaviors of this particular chimpanzee seem to prove that apes are very much aware of the future and can plan ahead for it just as humans do.

According to a report on Osvath’s work in the journal Current Biology, Santino, a chimpanzee residing at Sweden’s Furuvik Zoo, collected a stash of rocks during periods of calm, stashed them away, and then hurled them at unsuspecting zoo visitors who gawked and laughed at his daily territorial displays. Because the enclosure is relatively rock free, and many of the stones Santino launched at visitors were covered in algae, it was inferred that he initially collected many of his stones from the waters of the moat surrounding his enclosure. However, in looking to supplement his arsenal, Santino went so far as to probe the artificial concrete “boulders” in his enclosure seeking weak spots. Once located, the chimp knocked off chunks of the material to add to his weapons cache. If the collected concrete was too large to easily toss, Santino worked at breaking it into more manageably sized pieces. Even more impressive is that Santino did all of his collecting in the morning hours before the zoo opened and waited until midday before raining down his collection upon zoo patrons.