Chimpanzee Displays Complex Forethought in Planning Attacks on Zoo Visitors


A chimpanzee at the Furuvik Zoo in Sweden has been seen using complex forethought to plan his attacks on zoo visitors and increase their likelihood of success.

The same chimpanzee has previously been in the news for his practice of gathering, creating, and storing rock projectiles before the zoo opens, to be used later in the day.

Since then he has refined his technique, now using hay concealments to hide his weapons for surprise attacks, and abandoning the aggressive displays he had previously used before attacks, allowing for greater surprise.

“After a visitor group had left the compound area, Santino went inside the enclosure and brought a good-sized heap of hay that he placed near the visitors’ section, and immediately after that he put stones under it,” Mathias Osvath, the lead author of a new study on the chimpanzee said.

“He also appeared to have placed projectiles behind, just before he went in after the hay. After this, he sat down beside the hay and waited. When the visitors came back, he waited until they were close by and, without any preceding display, he threw stones at the crowd.”

20120510-172027.jpg Osvath said, “What is interesting is that he made these preparations when the visitors were out of sight, and also that he incorporated innovations into the behavior.”

“What makes this a bit special is that he actually had not experienced before what he seemed to anticipate,” Osvath added. “He, in a sense, produced a future outcome instead of just preparing for a scenario that had previously been re-occurring reliably.”

This leads into “one of the hardest questions in science: how matter (in this case the brain) can appear to be influenced by something that does not exist (the future). This is far from trivial.”

Wild chimpanzees in Bossau, Guinea have previously been documented searching out and intentionally disabling snare traps, while bringing young chimpanzees along with them to watch them do it. Wild chimpanzees are often killed or disabled by such traps.

Worth noting is that after the original stone-throwing incidents the chimpanzee was castrated by the zookeepers.

Source: Lund University, Discovery
Image Credits: Tomas Persson/PLoS ONE, Mathias Osvath

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