In 1997, Swedish inspectors found several stockpiles of missiles hidden in a local zoo. Apparently, the arsenal had been gathered together for the express purpose of being used against civilians. And who was the mastermind behind this collection? A 19-year-old chimpanzee called Santino.
Santino was born in a German zoo in 1978 and transferred to Furuvik Zoo at the age of 5. To this day, he lives in the zoo’s chimpanzee island – a large outdoor enclosure surrounded by a moat. Throughout his residence, he was mostly docile towards the eager visitors, but all of that changed in 1997 when he started chucking disc-shaped stones at them.
Now many of us may have secretly wanted to take part in a spot of tourist-stoning, but Santino’s antics became so common that visitors were actually in real danger. The zoo staff had to take action. One morning, they swept the chimpanzee island and (unlike some other weapons inspectors) they actually found Santino’s arsenal – five separate caches of stones dotted along the shoreline facing the public area. Each one contained 3-8 missiles including concrete slabs, and algae-covered stones that had clearly been taken from the moat.
Mathias Osvath from Lund University, who describes the behaviour in a new paper, believes that it’s clearly premeditated. Until now, it’s been very difficult to work out if natural chimp behaviour involves true forward-planning or represents a reaction to present circumstances. Is a chimp that gathers twigs for termite-fishing planning for the future, or just responding to a more immediate hunger?
There’s no easy answer to that, but Santino’s case is much clearer. One of his caretakers, Ing-Marie Persson has collected plenty of evidence to show that he was deliberately stockpiling weapons of individual destruction for future acts of tourist-stoning.