In what might seem like a scene from Planet of the Apes, a monkey has been filmed using a sharpened stone to smash through glass at a China zoo, just weeks after scientists in China declared they had created the first human-monkey embryos. Bow down to your simian overlords.
The critter in question is a white-faced capuchin monkey housed at Zhengzhou Zoo in China’s Henan province. On August 20, tourists gasped as the little monkey picked up a sharp stone and proceeded to whack it against the side of its glass enclosure. After a couple of attempts, the glass shattered, frightening the furry assailant and causing it to flee.
“The monkey was sharpening the stone, then it started hitting it on the glass,” Mr Wang, an onlooker, told local media.
“The monkey scared itself away, but it came back to take another look and even touched it.”
Zoo staff told reporters that the animal is particularly skilled when it comes to using tools, and will often use stones to crack open walnuts while its companions simply bite them. According to the zoo, both onlookers and the monkey came out of the ordeal unscathed.
Capuchin monkeys are a group of New World monkeys belonging to the subfamily Cebinae. The animals are savvy tool-users and have been employing rocks to help them tackle a variety of tasks for thousands of years. They use tools to dig, crack open nuts, and process fruits and seeds. They even use them in sexual displays.
The motivation behind the vandalism in the video is unclear. Was the animal hitting the glass out of boredom or curiosity, or was it staging a daring escape? The monkey may well have been stressed due to living in captivity, and a number of commenters have pointed out that keeping highly intelligent wild animals, such as primates, enclosed is cruel.
The footage is a stark reminder of the debate surrounding zoos; should we be entrapping wild animals for our own entertainment? Many opponents argue that zoos are outdated and unnecessary, while proponents claim that zoos are beneficial for wildlife conservation and education. While a minority of “good zoos” do help to fund conservation, many do not, and only a small amount of zoos’ overall takings are donated to the cause. Meanwhile, many species housed in zoos are not actually endangered. Occupants often experience a great deal of stress due to their unnatural, walled environment, and zoos across the globe fail to meet animal welfare standards.
While the zoo debate rages on, the latest debacle reminds us of the need to provide them with suitable living conditions and stimulating enrichment. Residents of Melbourne's zoos were recently beguiled by some enriching "bubble time", check out the video here.