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April fooled?

Tom Feilden | 17:21 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009

OK, be honest - did we get you?

Judging from the comments sent to the Today programme website it seems most of you spotted there was something 'fishy' about our claim that the taxonomic divisions between apes and humans were about to be scrapped.

If that's so you were right. The squirrel monkeys at London Zoo are not roaming free like some pack of stroppy adolescents. They haven't been stealing donuts from the kiosk beside the gorilla enclosure, and the dominant female gorilla, Zaire, has not been orchestrating their pilfering like some great criminal mastermind.

Although he does think apes are exceptionally intelligent animals, Dr Filippo Aureli (he really is the professor of animal behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University) doesn't think it's time to scrap the taxonomic distinctions between humans, chimpanzees and the other great apes. And nor is the Linnean Society convening an extraordinary meeting to vote on this vital issue later in the month.

For those of you who are interested the idea really did come from the story of Santino, the stone throwing Swedish chimpanzee. His antics, and the reporting of it last month, reminded me of Jarred Diamond's book The Third Chimpanzee. The rest is entirely my responsibility.

Many thanks to the Zoological Society of London, Prof Aureli at Liverpool, and Dr Sandy Knapp at the Linnean Society for having the breadth of character to poke fun at themselves.

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