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Did Santino the Chimpanzee Try to Attack Visitors at the Zoo?

Chimpanzees are highly sociable primates. They often live in communities with several animals and are often led by an alpha male. These primates mostly direct their aggressive tendencies on threats. They are intelligent and robust creatures. But did you hear the story about Santino the Chimpanzee in Furuvik Zoo?

In 1997, Santino, one of the chimpanzees in the Furuvik Zoo in Sweden, was caught collecting stones to serve as ammo for a premeditated tourist stoning. To calm him down, he was castrated.

Santino in the Swedish Zoo

Santino is a male chimpanzee born on April 20, 1978. He is currently a resident in the Furuvik zoo in Sweden.

In March 2009, zookeepers reported that Santino had planned on attacking visitors of the zoo. They noticed that Santino had been stockpiling stones as ammunition. He collected the rocks from the protective moat around his enclosure. He would even thump the stones onto the concrete to shape them into discs. This smart chimp was anticipating visitors to arrive.

Since the zookeepers found out about Santino’s plan, they have removed the stones from the island. They also started warning visitors about him and even erected a fence to contain the possible attacks.

A cognitive zoologist from Lund University, Dr. Mathias Osvath, and Elin Karvonen studied his behavior and concluded that the chimp was indeed planning something. Apparently, premeditated deception is not just a human trait, and primates practice them too.

Forward planning like this is supposed to be uniquely human; it implies a consciousness that is very special, that you can close your eyes you can see this inner world. Many apes throw objects, but the novelty with Santino is that he makes caches of these missiles while he is fully calm and only throws them much later on. We are not alone in the world within. There are other creatures who have this special consciousness that is said to be uniquely human.

Dr. Mathias Osvath, Lund University

In order to control his behavior, they had to maintain his hormone levels. It turns out; a little too much testosterone can bring out the worst in some creatures. The zookeeper had Santino castrated, and since then, he has been observed to be more playful and affectionate. (Source: The Guardian)

Do Chimpanzees Attack People When They Are in the Wild?

Chimpanzees in the wild are usually fearful of humans and will do their best to stay away. However, there have been reports of incidents where chimpanzees attack and kill people. This often happens when humans move into their territory and destroy their homes. When their access to food is limited, they become more confident to stand against humans and steal their food instead.

Over the past two decades, chimpanzees have attacked more than 20 people in the Western Region of Uganda, three of which were infants. Chimpanzees commonly direct their aggressive behavior toward children because they are more fearful of larger human adults. According to National Geographic, chimps have snatched and killed human infants. The attacks are mostly isolated and done by individual chimpanzees.

In the 1990s, there was a case where a chimpanzee killed seven children before humans caught and destroyed the animal. Captive chimpanzees are more aggressive toward people than their kin in the wild since they don’t fear people.

Pet chimpanzees are destructive and too dangerous to be kept as part of the family, and that it is difficult to keep them stimulated and satisfied in a human environment.  

Jane Goodall

(Source: Live Science)

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