50 Fascinating Facts about Apes and Monkeys

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1 Baboon troop

Baboon troop

In the 1980s when a baboon troop was hit by an outbreak of tuberculosis killing all of its aggressive alpha males, the remaining passive males which were bullied by previous alpha males transformed the troop from an aggressive and violent troop into a peaceful one, which was never observed before.

2. In 1986, when a 5-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure and lost consciousness, a male gorilla named Jambo stood between the boy and the other gorillas in a protective gesture, he even stroke the boy’s back. This incident helped create a positive public perception of gorillas.

3. An orangutan named Fu Manchu at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska repeatedly escaped from his cage at the zoo after learning to pick locks using a key he had fashioned from a piece of wire. Every time his zookeepers inspected him, he hid the key in his mouth. He was made an honorary member of the American Association of Locksmiths.

4. During the late 1800s, a baboon named Jack was employed by the railroad as a signalman. He never once made a mistake and worked for the railroad until his death.

5. On the Japanese island of Yakushima, macaque monkeys can be seen riding deer for transportation, and in return they groom deer and share food with them.

6 Kanzi


A bonobo named Kanzi once asked for “fire” and “marshmallows” using lexigrams while on a hike in the woods. His trainer gave him matches and some marshmallows. He proceeded to break twigs, made a fire, and roasted the marshmallows over it.

7. A 2005 a study was conducted that taught capuchin monkeys the value of money using small silver coins. During the experiment, a monkey was observed trading a coin for sex and the monkey who received the coin promptly traded it for a grape.

8. In 2007, it took 35 policemen armed with AK47s to rescue a shaved orangutan named Pony that was being used as a sex slave in a Borneo brothel.

9. In Thailand, pigtailed macaques are trained to harvest coconuts. Males can harvest up to 1,600 coconuts in one day, while their human overlords can only harvest about 80.

10. In 2007, a gorilla named Bokito escaped from his exhibit, grabbed and mauled a nearby woman, and then attacked a restaurant. It was later revealed the reason behind the rampage was a woman who made eye contact and smiled at him several times a week, which zookeepers told her not to do.

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11 Chimpanzees


Chimpanzees who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others and given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, Rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.

12. When introducing Golf to India, the British were angered by monkeys running onto the course and playing with their golf balls. When all attempts to stop the monkeys failed, they decided the game needed to adapt. To do so they introduced a new rule: “Play the ball where the monkey drops it.”

13. There is an extinct genus of ape named Gigantopithecus blacki, which stood at nearly 3 meters (nearly 10 feet tall), weighed as much as 540 kg and actually lived alongside humans for tens of thousands of years.

14. Researchers working with Kanzi (a bonobo who communicates using a keypad with symbols) claim his favorite movies are ones that blur the boundaries between humans and apes such as Planet of the Apes and Quest for Fire.

15. Over a dozen employees charged with caring for “Koko” the gorilla have reported that she is not adequately cared for and suffers significant neglect.

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16 Nim Chimpsky

Nim Chimpsky

A chimp named Nim Chimpsky used to express via sign language that he wanted to smoke marijuana.

17. A baboon gang roamed around Cape Town, led by Fred the baboon, and were pursued for 3 years by police after they became notorious for raiding cars, assaulting and interfering with tourists.

18. Japanese macaques wash their food in saltwater before they eat in order to both clean it and enhance the taste. They also make snowballs for fun.

19. Orangutans can learn sign language and even adapt it to reflect their understanding of the world better. One orangutan named Chantek even referred to an orangutan he’d never met before as an “orange dog”, and for his contact lens solution as “eye-drink.”

20. Humans are not the only primate that curse. Chimps do it to. In project Washoe, chimps being taught sign language internalized taboos around the toilet, with the sign “dirty” representing something shameful. They started using that sign as an admonition or to express anger, like a swear word.

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21 Mike


Mike, the lowest ranking member of a chimp group became the alpha male of the community overnight. He stole empty kerosene can from the researcher’s camp, and banged them to scare the other chimps.

22. There’s an island called Monkey Island off the coast of Puerto Rico, where the monkeys naturally have Herpes B, which can kill humans. So the first rule of Monkey Island is “don’t get peed on”.

23. NBC had a show named Mr. Smith with the entire premise being an orangutan being a political advisor. It was canceled after thirteen episodes were aired.

24. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in male Western lowland gorillas in North American Zoos. To combat this Cleveland Metropark Zoo doubled the gorilla’s leafy green intake which lead to a 65 pound weight loss in the gorillas.

25. Washoe the chimp (the first non-human who was taught sign language) became self-aware while staring into a mirror. She also appeared to experience an identity crisis when she was first introduced to other chimpanzees, seeming shocked to learn that she was not human.

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