With wars come rumors that often stand the test of time making a mockery of the news media in ways that seem too ridiculous to comprehend. And now one story is making the rounds that has readers (and possibly the unnamed originators of the story) rolling in the aisles. Taliban troops have been rumored to be training monkeys to shoot machine guns. And the story has come complete with photographs as well. Is this story of murderous monkeys holding water, or nothing more than a fabrication?
The story originated from the strictly regulated Chinese news organization “Peoples’ Daily Online” along with images of simian snipers brandishing belt fed machine guns that are circulating around the Internet presumably accompanying the story. Unfortunately, the site does not link to any discernible source so it’s difficult to determine how seriously the agency took the news or how credible their source before the information hit the news ticker. The incredible story does, however, have some precedent and dates back to the CIA’s investigation of apes as potential soldiers in the 1960’s and 70’s. At least that’s what the Peoples’ Daily Online says.
In reality, information regarding this topic has been impossible to confirm. In fact, even the CIA aspect of the story seems incredibly unlikely when one takes into consideration the significant size difference most apes have with even modestly sized assault rifles. Such weapons would have to be heavily modified and rebuilt before it could be even remotely feasible. And the picture of the ape with a grimace on his face as it trains a belt fed machine gun seems more like an April Fool’s day headline or blog post than something that deserves time on major news outlets.
Several humor sites have this very image with accompanying captions. The image of the rhesus monkey manning a belt fed machine gun is one of the most common images being touted in black and white across the Internet, but a color version of the image shows the tip of the gun has a 6mm orange tip to it. This tells us two things about the image. First of all, the photo is likely taken somewhere where the law requires toy guns to have orange tips. Second, a little bit of research uncovers the exact model of firearm as an airsoft Inokatsu 7.62 mm M60 E3 complete with prop M60 ammunition. It’s essentially a toy. And the flood of photoshopped and staged images of monkeys holding AK-47’s inevitably followed. The ape is also not firing the gun largely because the recoil of this weapon would make the gun fire wildly and the monkey would lose control of it quickly.
So is there really potential for apes to be trained as killers? In the wake of films such as the Planet of the Apes where Apes rule over a struggling mankind, it’s a tempting avenue for science fiction discussion, but the fortunate reality is it would be near impossible to train an ape in the art of warfare with firearms. And yet the tide of rumors continues to gain momentum as the interesting headline continues to spread across the Internet, no doubt using countless doctored photographs far more difficult to debunk to fuel the flame.