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10 things you should know about monkeys and apes

1. Let sleeping apes lie

Great apes build platforms in trees to sleep on. Experts believe a good night’s sleep may have played a fundamental role in the evolution of great apes. That and the Teasmaid.

BBC Earth: 'Apes reveal secrets to good sleep'

2. The smoking Mandrill

In the 1800s, Jerry the Mandrill was taught to drink and smoke and was accepted by high society, even having dinner with the king. He then joined the House of Lords where he remained undetected for many years.

3. For the fun of it

Rhesus macaques are thrillseekers that enjoy jumping off lampposts in India into just a foot of water.

Adrenaline junkies

Rhesus macaqeus in India divebomb from a lamppost just for fun.

4. Gorilla chuckle

Gorillas use their voices in various ways to express contentment, fear, humour and laughter, and make a panting sound which is a ‘gorilla chuckle’. It can often be heard in the audiences of BBC sitcoms.

How to talk to gorillas

Ape expert Ian Redmond reveals the calls he and Dian Fossey used to befriend gorillas

5. Memory test

Chimpanzees and orangutans were able to remember past events when presented with sensory reminders. Both species remembered where a useful tool was hidden three years after performing a task with it.

6. Gardeners of the forest

Monkeys and apes are essential to the health of the forest. They are seed dispersal agents and gardeners. Some fear that without them we may not have any have forests in the future.

7. Monkey drunk

In the 17th century there were different categories of drunkenness. Someone who got up and danced chaotically was called ‘monkey drunk’ or as we now call them ‘weekend stag do in Prague drunk’.

8. Gone fishing

Chimpanzees use tools to fish for termites and to get honey from bees’ nests. Different societies of chimps use different tools to do the same job.

Termite fishing

Gombe chimps catch tasty termites using twigs as tools.

9. Planners of the apes

Gorillas are able to plan for the short-term future. Their trails reveal they take shortcuts in order to run around other groups of gorillas to get ahead of them.

© The Trustees of NHM, London

10. Lovers not fighters

Bonobos have sex every six hours on average. Bonobos are the least aggressive of the apes and physical violence almost never occurs – they make love, not war! Plus, they like to laugh...

Sources: Radio 4 Natural Histories, BBC One Monkey Planet, BBC Earth, Dawn to Dusk, Animals in Love and BBC News.

Monkeys and Apes