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Chimpanzee in Sweden plots and executes attack on zoo visitors

March 9, 2009 |  1:30 pm

The late Washoe, a female chimpanzee believed to be the first non-human to acquire human language.

Many zoo visitors have witnessed chimpanzees throwing, uh, stuff, in the direction of people, but a particular chimp in Sweden has the scientific community abuzz because a study released Monday shows that primates possess the ability to plot and execute plans.

The report, in the journal Current Biology, cites the actions of Santino in the Furuvik Zoo near Stockholm. The 31-year-old alpha male was observed beginning preparations before the zoo opened. It collected rocks and other debris and stored the cache in a strategic location until midday, then opened fire on visitors beyond a moat.

"These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way," the report's author, Lund University doctoral student Mathias Osvath, told the Associated Press. "It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events."

Not stated but implied: Santino the chimp will not be landing a major-league pitching contract anytime soon. He rarely hit any of his targets and did not seriously injure a single one.

But seriously, if all chimps are able to plot like this, who knows what havoc they might wreak against mankind?

Scientists remain unsure all primates are that smart, however. Joseph Call, author of a 2006 study involving orangutans and bonobos, said of Santino: "It could be that he is a genius, only more research will tell."

To read the AP article, click here.

--Pete Thomas

Photo: The late Washoe, a female chimpanzee believed to be the first non-human to acquire human language. Credit: Central Washington University

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