Throwing Stones

Science Men are having an Excitement about a chimpanzee named Santino, who is currently interned in Sweden in a heavily fortified compound known as the Furuvik Zoo.

These Science Men have subjected Santino to a Study, from which they have drawn many interesting Conclusions.

However, it seems to me that the Science Men may be neglecting the primary conclusion which Santino, through his behavior, seeks to communicate.

It seems that one day in 2009, Santino, 34, was compelled to pick up a stone in each hand, and commence screeching at humans, who were standing there Looking at him.

The humans retreated in surprise, and Santino went back about his business.

The same group of humans returned later that day, again to Look at Santino, said Looking again occurring without the chimp’s permission.

Santino sauntered their way, again holding two stones, but this time appearing non-aggressive, placidly munching on an apple.

Then, when he had moved within range, Santino suddenly hurled his stony projectiles at the offending humans.

Santino next set about piling hay in an area of his cell located close to where humans would arrive to Look at him. He then secreted stones beneath the hay.

When humans would come by to Look, he would nonchalantly stroll over to the hay, then quickly reach inside, draw forth rocks, and fire them at the Lookers.

This behavior of Santino occurred recurrently. Each morning, before humans were permitted into the zoo, Santino would hump up his hay, and secret stones beneath it. Then, when humans would start Looking, he would bombard them.

A survey of the enclosure showed that Santino made piles of ammunition only on the quarter of the island’s shore that faced the visiting crowds.

When his keepers cottoned on to the fact that Santino devoted considerable time and energy each morn to collecting stones and dragging them across the moat that surrounded his enclosure, so that he could properly greet humans when they arrived to Look, they rudely removed the stones.

At which time Santino determinedly tapped the concrete floor of his cell with his fist, releasing chunks of concrete he then fashioned into discs suitable for throwing.

Staff at the zoo coped with Santino’s antics by warning visitors when he was getting agitated, and erected a fence to try to contain the projectiles.

All this caused Science Men to stream to the scene like ants.

The researchers watched this behavior continue for almost four months. Santino would conceal the rocks under hay or behind logs or other structures, casually walk up to it, and then suddenly throw it at a visitor.

Some zookeepers shrugged: Santino had been periodically heaving rocks at humans for near on a decade. It was just something he did.

But the Science Men, they Observed and Quantified.

Over the course of the summer, Osvath and Karvonen observed repeated episodes of this behavior, and also recovered stones that Santino had hidden under hay or logs, racking up 114 days of observation. They recovered a total of 35 projectiles that Santino had apparently concealed: 15 under hay heaps, 18 behind logs, and two behind a rock structure on the island.

As humongous mounds of snow are not unknown in Sweden, the Furuvik Zoo closes for a time each winter. And when the place reopened for the 2011 season, Santino no longer engaged in stone-throwing.

It is believed he is now constructing a mortar. In this way, humans may be discouraged from Looking, before they ever approach his enclosure.

There is also the theory that the Solution decided upon by humans to control Santino’s rock-throwing behavior—castration—may have rendered the man more docile, interested no more in driving away the Lookers.

“They have castrated the poor guy. They hope that his hormone levels will decrease and that will make him less prone to throw stones. He’s already getting fatter and he likes to play much more now than before,” said Osvath.

Au contraire. I do not believe that castration has rendered him more docile. I believe it has determined him to construct a thermonuclear device. Let the wrath of the Wronged, says he, let it all rain down.

The nature of the Excitement with which Santino has imbued the Science Men, is that his daily construction of hay mounds and log warrens, that conceal rocky weaponry, and before ever humans arrive at his place of internment, there to offensively Look, and thereby deserving the hurling of said weaponry, this manifests awareness, and understanding, of the future.

And it is apparently Accepted, among Science Men, that animals are unaware of, and do not understand, the future.


I seem to recall that, not so long ago, Science Men totally Knew that animals feel no pain. Which meant it was a-okay to do all and everything to them. And that, in fact, was done.

Just as Science Men also totally Knew that human infants do not experience pain. Which is why it was deemed perfectly acceptable to start sawing away at the penis, as soon as a male human made the mistake of being born into the wrong part of the World.

But that was then; and this is now.

For today, it seems, Science men for sure totally Know that animals cannot anticipate and envision the future.

They are like GOoPers, in this way: see, e.g., the common GOoPer’s utter inability to grasp the nature and meaning of climate change.

Just as animals, in their alleged inability—or so say the Science Men—to experience empathy, are akin to Wall Street humans: as on that fabled street, we have recently learned, some 10% of all humans so “exhibit[] a lack of interest in and empathy for others and an ‘unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation'” that they are considered “clinical psychopaths,” who should all be yanked off the floor and put into some sort of Home, for the protection of both themselves and other creatures.

But I digress. Let us regard the Excitement of the Science Men, in their rhapsodies over Santino, and his behavior, behavior that May Mean animals Could Be . . . could it really be? . . . Just Like Us.

According to cognitive scientist Mathias Osvath, “Forward planning like this is supposed to be uniquely human; it implies a consciousness that is very special, that you can close your eyes you can see this inner world. Many apes throw objects, but the novelty with Santino is that he makes caches of these missiles while he is fully calm and only throws them much later on.” Osvath concluded: “We are not alone in the world within. There are other creatures who have this special consciousness that is said to be uniquely human.”

Humans—they’re pretty funny.
I am reminded here that, when I was a wee lad, both Science Men and Religion Men totally Knew that there was no life anywhere in the universe, except here on lonely ol’ earth.
Now, of course, this is known to be balderdash. That life is more the rule, than the exception.
Just as consciousness, is more the rule, than the exception.
But humans, they aren’t there yet.
“Now wait just a dern minute. Buckwheat. You’re sayin’ buckwheat, it feels, knows, as much as me and thee?
“Nah. Can’t be.”
So, back to the Santino rhapsodies:

The calculated surprise attacks on visitors demonstrate very advanced thinking usually only associated with humans.

Osvath said, “What is interesting is that he made these preparations when the visitors were out of sight, and also that he incorporated innovations into the behavior.

“What makes this a bit special is that he actually had not experienced before what he seemed to anticipate,” Osvath added. “He, in a sense, produced a future outcome instead of just preparing for a scenario that had previously been re-occurring reliably.”

This comes very close to what is known as “theory of mind,” which is the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others, and to understand that others have thoughts, desires and more that are different from one’s own. Empathy, deception (as for Santino) and other qualities usually only reserved for humans can be linked to this process.

After observing the chimp for days, the scientists also suspect that Santino just also “finds it fun” to bug humans. He even appears to target certain people that perhaps really get on his nerves. The attacks are all the more successful because Santino plays it cool, holding back on posturing before whipping out the stone or other projectile.

Osvath additionally believes that the phenomenon taps into “one of the hardest questions in science: how matter [in this case the brain] can appear to be influenced by something that does not exist [the future]. This is far from trivial.”

What is also “far from trivial,” is what Santino is clearly trying to communicate, with all this time, effort, and behavior . . . which, in the end, resulted only in him having his balls sawed off.

He doesn’t want humans to Look at him.

So, perhaps they should stop.

For Santino, he has every bit as much right, as once did Greta Garbo, to be left alone.

I never said, “I want to be alone.” I only said, “I want to be left alone.”

There is all the difference.


1 Response to “Throwing Stones”

  1. 1 Comrade Red May 14, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I heartily agree!

    Reader who may doubt ought to read “Alex and Me” (Alex was a Parrot) and, also, “The Third Chimpanzee”. It is a scientific fact that “humans” are properly classified as Chimpanzees… (There are at present 3 known species of Chimps) This accepted fact makes claims that animals cannot think, plan, act, create future conditions and that they are not aware or conscious absurd. In view of that inescapable logic the Santino “experiment” is merely a further “field proof”.

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