Swedish zoo resident would secretly stash rocks, 'missiles' to hurl at visitors for his own amusement, report details.
MONDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- For years, Santino, a male chimp at the Furuvik Zoo in Lund, Sweden, was in the habit of spending two hours before the zoo opened collecting rocks and other "ammunition" to hurl at the human gawkers who started gathering outside his enclosure around mid-morning.
He stored the items at various sites around the chimpanzee island, where zookeepers were unlikely to find them and where they could be easily extracted when he was ready to "display."
This deliberate collecting, storing, then launching of rock and concrete missiles may be among the first clear evidence that an animal that is not human can engage in planning, says the author of a paper published in the March 9 issue of Current Biology.
The explanation is made all the more compelling by the fact that the chimp was in an entirely different state of mind during the planning phase of his endeavor (calm) than during the implementation phase (agitated), said the study author, Mathias Orvath, of Lund University.
"These observations fit nicely with all sorts of things apes do. I have seen apes line up feces as future ammunition," said Frans B.M. de Waal, C.H. Candler Professor of Psychology and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta. "This ape must have learned that during displays he would run out of things to throw and, from this, he must have extrapolated that it would be good to have a pile of projectiles at the ready."
"Apes in captivity enjoy pelting visitors and the excited shrieks and laughs they get as a reaction, which they do on a daily basis," de Waal added.
De Waal described one ape that gathered straw from inside a heated building, then took it outside for a warm nest during cold weather. This behavior only
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