Animal Intelligence

This is a truly remarkable story with huge implications about how these animals should be treated. I have topped and tailed it here.

The full story is here…

Spitting and urinating chimps ‘replay Aesop’s fable’

The study was carried out with gorillas and chimpanzees.

The primates were presented with a vertical glass tube, which was secured to a cage so it could not be moved or broken. At the bottom was a peanut, floating on a small amount of water.

Daniel Hanus Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology

They were also given access to a water dispenser.

The idea was that the animals would take water from the dispenser in their mouths, and then spit it into the tube to raise the water level.

It would take several visits back and forth between the dispenser and tube to gather enough water to get to the peanut.

The team found that none of the five gorillas was able to complete the task.

Chimps however were more successful. Out of 43 chimps, based in the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, in Uganda, and Germany’s Leipzig Zoo, 14 worked out that they needed to take the water in their mouths and spit it into the tube, and seven did this enough times to successfully obtain a peanut.

Dr Hanus said the study highlighted the chimps’ ability to solve problems.

He explained: “You cannot explain it by trial-and-error learning. They weren’t just spitting water around the room and some fell in by accident.

“Instead, they were standing in front of the problem, trying to work out the solution – at first by trying to use their fingers, or trying to break it.

“But some, then went to the drinker and got the mouthful of water and came back and spat it directly into the tube, and a few did it enough times to get the peanut.”

Here is a short video by me on a similar subject (with the help of Douglas Adams)..




There are some pretty unusual and funny collective nouns for animals but one that always struck me as strange is that in order to suggest wisdom, the collective noun for owls is “a parliament of owls”.

Isn’t the collective noun “A parliament of owls” actually insulting if you want to suggest that owls are intelligent?

Surely that would suggest they are merely pointless animals who enjoy preening themselves and running up huge expense bills?

For some of the other animals some of them are quite interesting too. I always like “a business of ferrets” as if you see one you have the opportunity to say “What is all this ferret business?”.

Some of them seem to have semi-sensible connotations and some bizarre

  • A flange of baboons – seems vaguely rude
  • A consortium of crabs – has a businesslike feeling (without ferrets)
  • A risk of lobsters
  • A party of peacocks
  • A mischief of rats
  • A shrewdness of apes

Some of them seem unfair

  • A murder of crows
  • A horde of gerbils
  • A sloth of bears

It should also of course be pointed out that a lot of this is usually just projecting human qualities onto animals, which is not a fair thing to do. There are some however, that have a nice onomatopoeic feel to them

  • A coffle of donkeys
  • A gaggle of geese

Finally, something I once read in a book and have since had confirmed in reality is that when you speak to or listen to zoologists they never use the plural. They go to see “gorilla” instead of “gorillas”.

Here is my video about “gorilla”


This is the first part of an only tangentially related two-part post.

There is a famous song by French anarchist George De Brassens that will be part two, but in this first part I just want to post a little film I made to show that the term “Brother Gorilla” is not actually that far from the truth.

The audio is Douglas Adams and comes from probably his best book which is Last Chance to See. I haven’t actually seen any of the more recent TV series with Stephen Fry but I am sure I will get around to watching it soon enough.

Speaking of Stephen Fry, I recently watched a debate on youtube featuring him that you could watch and some of the things in that debate I wrote about a while ago in a slightly different way and got a little bit of abuse for.

Anyway, the film…