The Kea which are very smart mountain parrots will go and disarm the traps in order to eat the bait. They're smart enough to have figured out how to do this, and are one of just a handful of animals that habitually use tools, but are unfortunately too smart for their own good because their handiwork means there's more predators for them.
But, some people don't give animals enough credit. Mammals and especially primates are very, very close to Humans genetically. Animals are often very smart.
Reminds me of a certain mammalian species.
Yep. Like. Humans?
This does miss the "crafty solution to an immediate problem" part that you and the original article mention, though.
In that vein, one of my environmental studies textbooks had a comic of microbes creating oxygen way back when and some of the microbes holding protests against them poisoning their environment with all that icky oxygen waste gas, ew.
Monkeys make me nervous, it’s like I’m looking at drunkards in a pub: probably stronger than me in hand-to-hand combat, only slightly less smart, undoubtedly more vicious, and completely unpredictable to the untrained.
they literally come in handy :-)
> The video confirmed what many scientists had long suspected: that the kea uses its powerful, curved beak and claws to rip through the layer of wool and eat the fat from the back of the animal. Though the bird does not directly kill the sheep, death can result from infections or accidents suffered by animals when trying to escape.
No, animals are not nice themself.
But if we claim, we are higher evolved, we can do different.
We aren't simply hunting. We cage and destroy at a scale natural death can't match. There are deals like 6 chicken wings for $2. No thought is given to the conditions these animals are raised into slaughter.
At least when humans used to hunt, they had to make a real effort to eat, they had skills, they knew first hand what it was to kill and bleed an animal, they didn't waste. All these are existential bonuses.
By disarming the traps there are more predators to hunt them.
By disabling traps, the parrots increase their predator population.
A classic case of solving for a net-harmful local optimum.
Parrots use their loose feathers as sticks, ripping them off and cleaning out the inside of their beaks.
My theory is that it seems too hardwired to be a "fun game" and instead a selected trait because "things knocked off a great height become more edible" e.g. eggs etc.
I would think that the main danger is in habituating the gorillas to humans, teaching them that we're safe when we're not. It may be better if any human interaction with them is aversive but not damaging, like pepper spray.
- Messing with natural behavior
- Not being able to adequately defend oneself because we're stuck debating an ethics question
While it is a bit of a straw man attack - if this were humans, the answer would be clear.
>"Chimpanzees are always quoted as being the tool users, but I think, when the situation provides itself, gorillas are quite ingenious," he said.
>Cranfield speculated that the gorillas may have learned how to destroy traps by watching the Karisoke center's trackers.
Looks like they may have learned it from watching humans.
You know what bothers me? movies like the lord of the rings trilogy that make us yearn for an imaginary a more magical time.
We are living in the end days of that magical time right now. We don't need fantasies about walking/talking trees when there are 'magical' animals we share the planet with right now that we haven't bothered to get to know.
Some have already been wiped out, and the others, well we are working on it...
> You've heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There's an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.
The idea is recognizable, at least. It's antelope individually scattering from a cheetah, rather than forming a tight group that wouldn't be attacked a second time. But it's sad, and kind of funny, just how wrong it is to draw that line at 'humans'. Gorillas disarm traps instead of avoiding them. Elephants defend their friends, even across species, and bury their dead. Dolphins proactively kill sharks, and hold injured dolphins - or humans - at the surface to breath. Even octopuses, not usually understood as a social species, display clear theory of mind.
It's not just the endless redefinition of "tool use" that feels like hubris anymore. Just about everything we consider deeply meaningful, emotion and intellect and teaching and even ritual, is not a uniquely human experience.
Humans evolved an illusion that we are alone in an individual consciousness because it was an adaptation: the mistaken belief makes it easier for us to kill, and kill in large numbers. Which happened to work well for us. It let us kill off any humans who thought there was anything wrong with carving out a new world without regard for the cost to other creatures.
Without that adaptation we never would have created civilization.
Tsk. Like the Prime Directive but in the real world.
Well, isn't it the natural behaviour of gorillas to learn? If they can learn by observing humans, without the humans specifically intending it, then what's so different, or unethical, if it's done with intent? I think this is just splitting of moral hairs that is missing an opportunity to help the gorillas protect themselves against poachers.
Anyway, if we left the gorillas on their own, without interfering, they'd eventually be wiped out by poachers and others.
P.S. It strikes me that the center's workers could have actually shown the gorillas how to dismantle the snares and are only pretending to be surprised at their "unprecedented" behaviour. But I'm proably just paranoid and jaded.
humans training gorillas leads to gorillas being more trusting and less suspecting of humans, including poachers, or some other unintended consequences.
Unfortunately, both Darwinian genetics and game theory tell us that cooperative behavior is exceedingly unlikely to emerge. In fact, there exists no well supported theory that fits the Darwinian genetic model of evolution for how non-kin cooperation could have emerged in the human species, let alone one that's widely accepted or which is supported by evidence. All the existing theories are predicated on the argument that cooperation is beneficial therefore evolutionary would select for cooperation, but neither genes nor evolution have foresight.
On the other hand, it should be abundantly clear that the types of intelligence which benefit the individual or a family clan arise readily in nature. Tool use, teaching, even culture are clearly widespread; they're simply circumscribed by well known genetic counter pressures. Cheating strategies spontaneously emerge and effectively limit the establishment of cooperative behaviors to close kin and, to a lesser extent, non-kin that are genetically incentivized to play along (e.g. mating partners or prospective mating partners), but only to the extent that have the incentive to play along. The two species of mammals which exhibit the greatest degree of systematic social cooperation (i.e. the ones closest to humans in terms of eusociality, though still not remotely comparable) are bonobos and mole-rats. Predictably, those groups are predominately composed of cooperating genetic sisters, so in fact their behavior is more analogous to bees and ants than to humans in terms of how and why eusociality exists.
It follows that the emergence of non-kin cooperative behavior likely preceded our intelligence. This is the bottleneck--not thumbs or speech or whatever phenotype du jure, including complex intelligence. None of this stuff stands up to scrutiny. All the evidence and theory clearly points to cooperative social behavior, for which there's little reason to believe was predicated on some simple phenotype. If only we knew how we passed through that evolutionary bottleneck....
I recently watched Band of Brothers. It is about people sticking together to kill other people. Why the hell is that interesting to me? I blame genetics.
Can you elaborate on your sources?
Gordon Bennet, justify that claim!
If a few individuals are smart enough to disarm traps, are you saying that is not going to put an upward pressure on intelligence? (assuming it's hereditary).
> What use is it for a gorilla to read or have complex language
So intelligence is only relevant to complex language use? And not, for example, food acquisition?
Squid and octopus have jaw-dropping intelligence, clearly aimed at food acquisition. But they only mate once and then die, and so long as that's the case it's clear why cooperative behavior will never arise and why their intelligence maxes out at whatever is useful for the individual alone. (Note, however, such intelligence my incidentally promote limited types of cooperation. You have to be careful to distinguish the selection pressures to understand the limitations.)
Gorillas may learn how to disarm traps, but multiple gorilla troops are never go to learn to gang up together for their common defense and well-being such as by actively teaching other troops how to disarm traps, at least not in an evolutionarily meaningful sense, even though from our perspective it would be advantageous for the species as a whole. There's no genetic pressure for that. The genes that might promote non-kin cooperation are countered by genes for selfishness or laziness.
The fundamental dilemma is that benefits of cooperation partially inure to non-cooperators. If one gorilla disarms a trap then every gorilla benefits to some extent; to the extent they benefit then selection pressure is diminished for the trap-disarming intelligence trait to propagate as it's unnecessary to have the gene to reap those partial rewards. So what happens is that the species reaches an equilibrium according to how the costs & benefits are allocated.
Because of how genetics works, both the costs & benefits of cooperation and intelligence are moderated by degrees of kinship. The equilibrium reached--the selection pressure for stable, multi-generational cooperative intelligence--will always be a strict function of kinship. At least until a species can passthrough the bottleneck that humans did, after which things clearly get more complex. I don't know the mathematical function, but AFAIU game theory shows that selection pressures for cooperation basically drop off a cliff after the first or second generation.
Again, evolution doesn't have foresight nor intelligence of its own; it can't preference one trait over another simply because one trait leads to greater reproductive success down the road, or great success for the species as a whole. It can't disfavor genes for cheating or laziness as long as those strategies are equivalently successful for each individual's reproductive success considered in isolation.
Being able to disarm a simple trap clearly has tremendous benefit to the individual and the kin in his troop, no matter that almost every other gorilla in the forest benefits to a substantially similar degree regardless of kinship. So no surprise gorillas can do this, given other factors (e.g. in the abstract, slow rates of reproduction mean there's greater pressure for smarter individuals; whereas for species with high rates of reproduction other strategies will predominate). But legions of gorilla troops aren't going to start systematically disarming traps in the forest. Yes, they could if they spontaneously developed the certain types of intelligence, like complex communication and organizational behaviors, but those types of intelligence are predicated on being able to rely on a high degree of selfless behavior of non-kin, and that is unlikely to happen. As far as we know, in the billions of years of life on earth that qualitative kind of cooperation has only happened once. (Our degree of intelligence has also only happened once. That's unlikely to be a coincidence. My argument is that the former preceded the latter, at least at our branching point. Afterward intelligence may have driven greater cooperation in a virtuous cycle, but we shouldn't have much confidence that we can understand that process without understanding the genesis.)
My overarching point is that we can easily predict the types of intelligence exhibited in the article using basic, high-school level genetic theory. We should expect many more fascinating examples like this from gorillas, chimpanzees, orcas, dolphins, etc. And we can easily predict the limits of such intelligence similarly. Weird theories about sex or thumbs or w'ever, however, cannot explain how a species transitions to comparatively selfless, non-kin cooperation because they can't explain the mechanics of the selection pressures within the framework of Darwinian genetics; and because they can't do that they can't explain how a species is put on the path to human-level abstract intelligence.
 That the social groups of bonobos and naked mole-rates are organized around sisters is something that many research papers gloss over and often fail to mention at all. I actually had to dig through the literature to confirm this. (I'm not a biologist, FWIW.) Note this is distinct from a matriarchy. All that matters is that the seemingly atypical degree of social cooperation is most easily explainable by genetic relatedness. Occam's Razor says that Bonobo's non-reproductive sexual behaviors, for example, are ancillary to the core dynamic driving their cooperative social structure, rather than being a driver. And so analogizing Bonobo sex with human sex doesn't actually teach us anything; it doesn't suggest that social sex promotes cooperation, just that cooperative behaviors may correlate with social sex, which should be obvious.
I think this might interfere with some research involving the gorillas. You cannot study their natural behaviors if you are assisting them. Not to say there isn't research teams looking to train gorillas, my point is that may not be THEIR focus. While they cannot control for poachers, they can control for them own interactions. Furthermore, not to slippery slope, but to what end do you believe they should be allowed to interfere? If, say, a diseased food source begins to decimate the group that could be prevented through cooking, should the researchers attempt to teach them how to cook the food source to kill the bacteria?
Also, if they're capable of learning then they're sapient by definition which means we have some moral obligations to them rather than being disinterested observers, because it's our species that is trying to kill them.
Perhaps we should start considering them as different species of people rather than mere livestock.
It's because we have moral obligations to them that researchers try not to interfere.
> Perhaps we should start considering them as different species of people rather than mere livestock.
If we considered them livestock they'd be in cages. These researches are treating them as we treat many uncontacted tribes of humans.
It's fine if you disagree with the option, but this approach has nothing to do with being callous or indifferent, it's just a different point of view on how best to protect them. And in my opinion, it's a reaction to the full contact approach that was already tried in the 60s/70s, and frankly didn't go well for either side.
I think this is a very poor argument. First of all, conservation trumps research. Secondly, their environment already isn't "natural" when it has got snare traps in it.
> If, say, a diseased food source begins to decimate the group that could be prevented through cooking, should the researchers attempt to teach them how to cook the food source to kill the bacteria?
Seems far-fetched, but in principle: Yes, why the hell not?
Ear devices for when they don't hear well.
A wheelchair for when they can't walk.
I'm afraid when Darwin passes by ( other group of gorillas) and the word of the strongest will be law.
( Just thinking out loud, with controversy :) )
Except if it makes genetics weaker on the very long term and tech becomes a requirement instead of optional.
Glasses, smoking, IVF,...
Ps. I wear goggles myselve. And I know the above will be a hated opinion.
It could go like "If we were to suddenly revert to, in the far future, some sort of stone age like environment, our distant descendants may be very unfit for that environment. This would be unfortunate."
see no evil
> Ear devices for when they don't hear well.
hear no evil
> A wheelchair for when they can't walk.
...okay, you lost me there
Obviously only part of the solution, but considering that the poachers, especially of elephants & rhinos are now largely part of organized crime syndicates, totally fair.
As far as I'm concerned, you hunt down a gorilla, elephant or similar with a high powered rifle, trap, or poison their water source, then use a chain saw to hack out their tusk or hand to sell, you've turned in your human-card for good.
At the very least, they've signed up for "Live by the sword, die by the sword". (and they at least have the ability to shoot back at their hunter, more than the elephants/gorillas have)
”Hanabiko "Koko" (July 4, 1971 – June 19, 2018) was a female western lowland gorilla known for having learned a large number of hand signs from a modified version of American Sign Language (ASL)”
Wikipedia thinks Koko’s teacher still is alive (aged 72), so punishment certainly wasn’t swift.
2) The punishment of Prometheus is based on him being immortal. Humans would die after the first round.
You're going to die anyway, being a martyr for the gorilla revolution doesn't seem like the worst way to go.
>On Tuesday tracker John Ndayambaje spotted a trap very close to the Kuryama gorilla clan. He moved in to deactivate the snare, but a silverback named Vubu grunted, cautioning Ndayambaje to stay away, Vecellio said.
>Suddenly two juveniles—Rwema, a male; and Dukore, a female; both about four years old—ran toward the trap.
>As Ndayambaje and a few tourists watched, Rwema jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it, while Dukore freed the noose.
>The pair then spied another snare nearby—one the tracker himself had missed—and raced for it. Joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero, Rwema and Dukore destroyed that trap as well.
>"If we could get more of them doing it, it would be great," he joked.
>Karisoke's Vecellio, though, said actively instructing the apes would be against the center's ethos.
>"No we can't teach them," she said. "We try as much as we can to not interfere with the gorillas. We don't want to affect their natural behavior."
I wonder if this "prime-directive" style rule might be something they consider changed - if there was a way to teach the gorillas to disabled various kinds of traps it seems that would be great.
On the other hand, I wonder what the side effects would be.. anyone?
You could also try to use pigeons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Pigeon)
Either way I'm all for it.
Of course, highly controversial idea, but if you really want to curb down poaching, it might be a good way to fight back with better incentives.
The solution is simple: give guns to gorillas and teach them to shoot them. Now we'll have gorilla warfare...
AFAIC they don't seem to understand how to throw, and aren't physically well adapted to do so.
The pandas seem to dig it:
Gorilla dismantling trap: No. Caesar IS home.
>The hunters, Vecellio said, seem to have no interest in the gorillas. Even small apes, which would be relatively easy to carry away for sale, are left to die.
Pretty misleading for the title to blame poachers then, isn't it?