Did you hear the one about the drunken monkey? Primates frequently encounter and consume alcohol in their natural environment, most commonly through fermented fruit. But a study published last year showed that some Chimpanzees are actively seeking it out, and have even developed tools to help them access their preferred tipple!
I’ve written before on the topic of animals and recreational drug use. Research has shown that many animals consume alcohol in their diet, from treeshrews drinking alcoholic nectar in Malaysia to Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) drinking fermented berries of the Brazilian Pepper Tree (Schunus terebinthifolius). But deliberate consumption of alcohol – which is, let’s not forget, a poison – is harder to find.
Chimpanzees and Monkeys
Non-scientists often make mistakes when talking about science. This is understandable. I’m sure I make mistakes when I talk about politics! But there is one mistake, one seemingly inconsequential error, that I find completely intolerable. The error I am referring to is the routine use of ‘ape’ ‘chimpanzee’ and ‘monkey’ as interchangeable terms for the same entity.
The word chimpanzee refers exclusively to members of a single genus; Pan. This genus contains two species; the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) – what most people think of when they imagine a chimpanzee, and which have been famously humanised in television shows for decades – and the bonobo chimpanzee (Pan paniscus) which is found only in the Demoncratic Republic of Congo.
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