Wild news from the wild kingdom.
GORILLAS IN THE MIDST OF CHEATING
The Gorilla Game Lab is a joint project of England’s University of Bristol and the Bristol Zoological Society. Both organizations aim to both develop and study the cognitive abilities of gorillas, and they do it by giving the primates puzzles to solve. One game given to western lowland gorillas at the Bristol Zoo Gardens proved particularly popular. It’s a wall-mounted toy, sort of like a marble maze, in which gorillas place a stick through various holes to guide a peanut around obstacles and roadblocks. The point is to get the peanut all the way out of the maze, and then, guess what, gorilla? Free peanut! The game speaks to gorillas’ problem-solving skills and higher intelligence, especially because researchers noticed that many of the gorillas figured out how to cheat at the game. They realized they didn’t have to guide the peanut along until it popped out at the end — they could just put their mouths on the toy and suck out the peanut. This “was not how we intended the device to be used,” said Dr. Fay Clark of the Bristol Zoo Gardens. “But it just shows you that they’re very flexible, they’re capable of creating new solving strategies to access the food.”
SEALS VS. EELS
In the summer of 2016, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Project first encountered a weird problem amongst its subject of study, and it’s only gotten worse since. It would seem that monk seals keep getting eels firmly lodged up their noses. (More often than not, it’s been juvenile monk seals, presumably because it’s juvenile to get something stuck up one’s nose?) While it certainly makes for an amusing picture and easy pickings for nose picking jokes, it’s actually a very serious problem. Monk seals are highly endangered — only about 1,400 are alive on the planet today, and most reside on a cluster of eight islands in northwestern Hawaii. Scientists worry that the eels could spread infections to the seals, or prevent them from feeding — monk seals dive into the ocean to forage for food, and if there’s an eel stuck in a nostril, they can’t close off that nostril to survive an underwater trip. Why is this happening? Scientists have two main theories. Seals forage in coral cracks and under rocks, where eels live, and the eels may jump into nostrils as a defensive maneuver. The other, grosser theory: Seals eat the eels and unable to digest them, regurgitate them…through their noses.
CALL OF DOODY
Over the past two years, a neighborhood in Auckland, New Zealand, was barraged with a pretty nasty serial surprise: They’d come home to find dog leavings sitting on their bedroom pillows. Finally, Rick Didham stepped forward to take the blame. Okay, it wasn’t him exactly: It was his dog, Jack. He fit the description of witnesses, but Didham didn’t think it was Jack because he didn’t think there was a way for his dog to get out of his yard…until he found a hole in the fence. Jack had a particular M.O.: He’d sneak out, enter a home through a cat door, and then head for the bedroom and relieve himself. Didham offered to buy all of Jack’s victims new pillow cases.