Monkey Business: 34 Fascinating Facts About Our Primate Cousins

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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.

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

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

4. 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.

5. 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.

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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.”

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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".

10. 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.

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11Male Western lowland gorillas

Male Western lowland gorillas

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.

12. 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.

13. While chimpanzees can be violent, mankind's closest relative --the bonobo-- has never once been observed killing another member of the same species.

14. Capuchin monkeys reject fruit from researchers if they consider it inferior to the fruit being received by its peers.

15. There was a gorilla named Michael who learned sign language and once described what it was like to watch his mother be killed by poachers.

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16Uncle Fat

Uncle Fat

A wild monkey in Thailand was nicknamed Uncle Fat after he gorged himself on junk food and soda left behind by tourists and became morbidly obese. He had to be put on a strict diet. At 26Kg, he was 3 times heavier than the average macaque.

17. An orangutan named Chantek was raised as a human, went to college, and eventually referred to himself as an "orangutan person"

18. Zookeepers in Spain installed a TV set in their chimp Gina's cage and then taught her how to use the remote. While channel surfing, Gina discovered the porn station, to which she became addicted.

19. When the dominant male in a troop of gorillas dies or is killed, then the troop will go their separate ways and find new groups to be a part of. However, if a younger male challenges the leader and wins then he becomes the new leader and the troop stays intact.

20. Monkeys display metacognitive abilities, which means that they are aware of their own thought process and knowledge, and seek to actively control it.



A Chimpanzee named Julie, started a fashion trend among the other apes in her group in 2010 by sticking a hair of grass in her ear. The style caught on shortly after the act.

22. A handsome gorilla named Shabani is famous in Japan for his good looks.

23. The endangered Barbary macaque is the only wild European primate, with approximately 230 living on the Rock of Gibraltar.

24. A baboon named Jackie during World War 1 participated in action, sustained several wounds, had his leg amputated, was promoted to corporal and received Pretoria Citizen’s Service Medal.

25. A male gorilla will grow his 'Silverback' at around twelve years old. Subordinate males in a troop are younger, and are known as 'blackbacks.'

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