Ard: I have another story about the chimpanzee, which is that, at some point, as he got bigger, sometimes we had to chain him, if we weren’t around. So we had him on a chain, and some of the local villagers… He would love shiny things, like watches, and so this day, when a lot of people were around, one of the guys had a watch, which was an enormous luxury. So the guy took it in front of him, just at the edge of his chain. So, he was jumping up and down and getting very angry because he couldn’t reach it, and then he went back. He took up part of the chain and held it behind his back…
David: To shorten the chain?
Ard: Shorten the chain. Then he jumped up and down until they got too close and let the chain go. He had this much chain. Out he went, grabbed the watch, ran up into the tree and refused to come down. So, it was a… Everybody was yelling and screaming.
David: That’s clever, isn’t it?
Ard: He sat up there, looked at everybody. My mother went out. He never… In his pecking order, my father came first, he came second and then came everybody else. So he just looked at my mother and ignored her. So they finally called my father, and he saw my father coming round the corner. He put the watch in his mouth.
David: That’s excellent.
Ard: Just like nothing. As if, you know, ‘What watch?’ My father called him down and he finally, grudgingly, came down and pulled the watch out of his mouth.
David: That’s great.
Ard: But I think that story is like… He had theory of mind because he was able to… He realised that he would fool the people with the watches: that they would think he was at the end of the… I’ve asked animal psychologists did he have theory of mind, and they said, ‘Well, we always hear these anecdotal stories, but it’s hard to prove in the lab.’
JG: This is the thing. To me a collection of anecdotes gives you a better feeling for the true nature. And you can’t prove, in a scientific way, every single anecdote, but when you gather them all together, then you start really seeing the flexibility of the behaviour.
Ard: Yeah. It’s amazing behaviour.
JG: We have this lovely story. Pom was about nine years old and her little brother, Prof, was around three – should be riding Mum, but Mum was a bad mother. She was away in the back, and suddenly Pom stops and stares at something on the trail ahead. And she gives a little, ‘Ooh, oh’. Her hair stands up. She rushes up a tree. Little Prof, maybe he doesn’t hear the sound, maybe he doesn’t know what it means, carries on along the trail. And as he gets closer to this place, Pom’s hair stands completely on end and she gets this huge grin of fear, which people think is smiling: fear. And finally she can’t bear it anymore, and she rushes down, she grabs her little brother and rushes up a tree, and there’s this big poisonous snake coiled up at the side of the trail.
David: That’s fascinating, because that suggests that she’s imagining what might happen in the future.
JG: Yes, of course she is.
David: She has a scenario ahead.
Ard: And she’s protecting her brother.
JG: Yes, yes.
David: But it’s that, it’s that notion that… So often the scientists say, ‘Well, we look ahead, but animals live in the moment.’ But that’s a clear example of…
JG: Yeah, and even better, there was another young female, about the same age as Pom, and her little brother, and they were with the mother. And the mother was leading, and then came the adolescent daughter and then the little one following.
So the mother went through, the adolescent daughter started through and then turned back and grabbed the little one, who started screaming because he wanted to follow his mother, and she dragged him around. That clump of grass was absolutely stiff with little tiny ticks. And the mother, who’d been through, spent a long time pulling them off herself. So that, to me, is even more amazing than the snake.
David: Yes, because she’s already played out the whole scenario of the consequence of going through and getting the ticks. The ticks will be on…
David: So she’s got a whole scenario of the future.
JG: I think that’s amazing, quite honestly.
David: So do I.