A stone throwing chimp at the Furuvik zoo in Sweden was documented several times over the course of weeks, calmly walking into the stream at the base of its cage and collecting stones, then piling them up in front of its cave in mysterious formations. The zookeepers soon realized, as it would perform dominance displays in front of park visitors, that these stone formations were actually designated weapons caches the chimp had set up specifically for the purpose of throwing them at gawkers.
Chimp behavior has been historically difficult to understand, as it is often ambiguous. However, as is crucial to this case, Santino was in a completely different state of mind when gathering the stones calmly in the mornings. He would methodically take rocks, and gently tap out larger ones from the boulders around his pen, adding them to the weapons caches. He was even seen examining stones, to test for their effectiveness as weapons. Such behavior is involved in a neural process known as the autonoetic consciousness. This consciousness, suspected for a while in apes, but never quite proven would mean that information can be stored in memory, and can be distinguished from the senses. In other words, a higher consciousness where memory, projections of the future, and complex understanding of things beyond the pure reactionary process can be understood. “I’m personally convinced that at least chimps do plan for future needs, that they do have this autonoetic consciousness,” Researcher, Dr. Mathias Osvath said. Osvath went on to say, “I bet there must be a lot of these kinds of behaviors out there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we find them in dolphins or other species.” It stands to mention that in 1835, a Mr. Bodero told the press several times of a “singular intellect” in the chimp community which displayed quite human characteristics, and was seen several times throughout Mr. Bodero’s relationship with the ape to have the ability to remember long term bits of information beyond the simple aversion to danger of “normal” animals.
This sort of spontaneous higher thinking should not be confused with, for example, squirrels gathering nuts for the winter, or bears consuming large quantities of food to prepare for hibernation. These behaviors have been demonstrated to be purely instinctual, rather than thought processes based on an understanding of likely future events. Many species of animal retains memory without necessarily being taught. For example, the Loggerhead turtle will beach itself on dry land, and deposit its eggs in the sand, but will not teach its offspring to do this, depending instead on an ancestral memory passed from generation to generation that beaches are the place to lay eggs.
Of course we’re still nowhere near a “Planet of the Apes” scenario here. Santino’s throws were likely more intended to frighten onlookers, and no one has been seriously injured by any of his antics. It’s likely Santino just wants more respect from the human race. It’s also likely that he has succeeded in a way far greater than he can understand. Or can he?