Baboons not very clever

2012-05-09 22:15
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Baboon raids car at Cape Point

See these pictures of a baboon raiding a car for food near Cape Point in the Cape Peninsula National Park, Cape Town.

Cape Town - Baboons are "remarkably persistent", but perhaps not as clever as expected, the City of Cape Town was advised on Wednesday.

Traditionally plagued by unruly baboons at tourist destinations, the city called on veterinary scientist Dr Elzette Jordan and researcher Bentley Kaplan for advice.

"Baboons are remarkably persistent and, with time, will more often than not solve a mechanical challenge like opening a car door or a waste bin," said Jordan.

However, there was "very little proof" that baboons were able to learn by imitation or teaching.

The researchers found that baboons showed two types of learning - trial and error, and stimulus enhancement.

Kaplan said baboons also associated food with certain objects like fridges, cupboards and bags.

"For now, research has yet to prove that baboons learn at a more complex level than this, but no one can say what future investigations might reveal."

He dismissed claims that adult baboons taught their young to raid or open bins.

"Rather, the young baboons follow the adults into urban areas and then do their own learning," said Kaplan.

In 2010, the Telegraph reported that Cape Town was having a problem with dozens of "drunk baboons".

Sampled fallen fruit

The baboons had developed a taste for grapes and each day they would strip vines in Groot Constantia before heading into the mountains to sleep.

It reported that some of the baboons which had sampled fallen fruit that had fermented in the sun generally passed out and did not make it home.

Another baboon, named Fred, gained infamy in the city for opening closed car doors and robbing tourists of their bags and food.

In 2010, he attacked and injured three people, two of whom required medical attention.

Cape Town eventually decided to euthanise Fred.

At the time, the city blamed Fred's "demise" mainly on the continuous "misguided efforts" by humans to befriend and feed baboons.

In 2009 National Geographic reported that "cheeky monkeys" had raided homes and bins for food.

It reported that the primates had learnt how to open windows, refrigerators, and bins.

Read more on:    cape town  |  animals

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