The Guardian featured a story on a rock-throwing chimpanzee named Santino.
What makes Santino’s tale different is not that he heaves projectiles at the human beings gathered around his caged area (though unrelenting scrutiny could make a body somewhat testy and inclined to throw things).
No, what makes this fellow a cut above the norm is that he plans his attacks. Malice aforethought:
Santino would get agitated when the first groups of visitors arrived at his enclosure in the morning, and would start hurling stones at the spectators. When the zookeepers investigated, they found that, while the zoo was closed, Santino had been busy making piles of ammunition, and returned to them to resupply.
To catch the chimp in action, one zookeeper hid in a room overlooking the enclosure and observed the ape’s behaviour before the zoo gates opened each morning. She saw Santino dragging stones from a protective moat that surrounded his island home, before placing them in piles…
So he didn’t just pick up any rock lying around, he stockpiled missiles with the intention of ending his daily humiliations.
And he was even smarter than that. He actually manufactured some of his ammunition:
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Further covert surveillance of the ape revealed he spent some time tapping areas of concrete floor with his fist. Occasionally, the animal would thump harder, releasing chunks of concrete that he broke into rough discs.
Going even further, he obviously was capable of strategic defense:
A survey of the enclosure showed that Santino made piles of ammunition only on the quarter of the island’s shore that faced the visiting crowds.
He only indulged in his missile defense acquisition when the zoo was closed at night. In the winter, when the zoo was closed, he quit stockpiling weapons entirely.
Pretty smart, dude, huh?
- he considered his state of humiliation and decided to take action
- he figured out throwing rocks might hurt his enemies or discourage their behavior
- he stockpiled ammunition in strategic places (and only in strategic places)
- he did it on the sly, when the keepers weren’t around
- he manufactured additional ammunition from the materials available
- when defensive behavior wasn’t necessary he ceased acquiring weapons or using them
This was intelligent, assertive behavior aimed at lessening his humiliation. However, his keepers can’t distinguish between assertiveness and aggression, so all he got for his forethought and clever defense was castration.
“They hope that his hormone levels will decrease and that will make him less prone to throw stones. He’s already getting fatter and he likes to play much more now than before. Being agitated isn’t good for him…”
Quelle surprise! Being agitated by gawkers isn’t good for anyone. Why didn’t they just lobotomize him while they were at it?
Oh…I just noticed this happened at the Furuvik zoo in Sweden.
You Swedish men had better watch it. Defensive assertiveness is obviously a cultural deviation. You may be next on the list.
Or maybe you already are…