Are you smarter than a chimp?

By Susan Aiello • Published: May 3rd, 2011
Category: Animal Airwaves

Rather than outsmarting a fifth grader, a new game show might ask, are you smarter than a chimp? Research in New Guinea suggests that some wild chimps have learned how to disable or even destroy traps that might otherwise injure or kill them.

Natives place the traps to catch large cane rats, which are a dietary staple there. Precocious primates have learned to shake, untie or otherwise render the snares useless. They also warn other chimps and, on at least one occasion, have freed a trapped companion.

These adroit apes aren’t learning by trial and error. Just one slip-up could be fatal, and there were no signs of prior injury on young chimps that acquired the skill. So it appears that these techniques are being handed down from one generation to the next, as a form of group culture. Looks like junior is just a chimp off the old block.