Chimp enjoys magic show

A young chimp is impressed by magic tricks. (Via Bits and Pieces)


  1. Dressing chimps up for entertainment is about as low as the human race can get without the use of violence.

  2. #3: I think there’s a bit of both going on. The chimp’s operating on about the level of a three-year-old human, I think, so some of the reactions are probably genuine surprise. The nods, on the other hand, are definitely cued, and some of the other reactions may be unintentionally cued.

  3. “Dressing chimps up for entertainment is about as low as the human race can get without the use of violence.”

    You’re right. I felt like calling in and telling the stylist that the chimp would have look smashing au naturel, with just the chic bandanna neckerchief.

  4. It is probably pretty low to dress chimps up for our entertainment…

    At the same time, a video like this shows just how intelligent a chimp is and might make some people a little more compassionate towards chimps and other animals.

    I’m stunned by how much you can see the little gears turning in its head.

  5. I don’t think the hugs were cued, though other reactions might have been. The hugs struck me not as a gesture of appreciation, but more of confusion. The chimp isn’t sure about what is going on and so seeks the security of a hug in its confusion.

    My favorite moment was definitely when the magician put the coin under the newspaper covered cup, and then did nothing to the cup. The chimp had clearly figured out the pattern, and flipped out when a magic trick didn’t happen. That takes some real pattern matching abilities.

  6. To paraphrase Carl Sagan: How smart does a chimpanzee have to be before exploiting them constitutes a crime?

    “I felt like calling in and telling the stylist that the chimp would have look smashing au naturel, with just the chic bandanna neckerchief.”

    Such a dismissive response is disappointing from a BoingBoing editor. Will the level of debate about the fate of other species ever become elevated beyond “oh look at the funny animal.”

  7. I enjoyed this video. Often you hear about how intelligent chimps are, but you don’t get to see it in action very often. A creature has to be very clever to react to magic. I loved how it investigated the magician’s hands. You could really see the wheels turning in its mind.

  8. Just did a quick search to see if primate reactions to magic has ever been studied. Nothing immediately popped up. It seems to me that this would make a great thesis.
    Remember, the lower the IQ, the stronger the belief in “magic”. (Go ahead, change that to “religion”- you know you were thinking that, too)

  9. @#10

    A quick survey of your previous comments clearly indicates that you need to chill out, hyper-sensitivity is a sign of being a tool

  10. I presume Mark Frauenfelder mistook the comment as a statement over the clip’s intellectual worth rather than how keeping chimps as pets is cruel to the animal.

    I’m surprised it isn’t more well known, but if you look it up, you’ll quickly see how bad an idea it is.

  11. Young chimps like to dress up. Leave articles of clothing near their enclosures and…

    monkey see, monkey do.

  12. I’m wondering how the little speech bubbles characterize the chimp. Does he express frustration, total wonder, excitement? Does he talk like a baby? Any Japanese speakers?

  13. Pan-kun (the chimp) is no longer doing the tv show, but is continuing to perform at a zoo theme park.

    At this point in life, he’s more used to, and dependent on, us humans than his fellow chimps.

    Not sure if he gets his own ‘trailer’ or gets put back in the general prison population.. Since they are very good at communicating skills, I expect an eventual overthrow of Japan by Segway-riding chimps.
    The revolution will be hilarious.

  14. Correction: He does the tv show while away from the zoo. He’s even got a girlfriend.

    Darn half-informed internets, you’d think they were written by a infinite number of primates.

  15. The speech bubbles for Pan-kun were just simple phrases, things like “Where did it go?” “Why?” “Amazing!” The watermelon was “tasty” and he said “I’m glad” when the man was OK after the sword trick.

  16. Was I the only one who thought the chimp was gonna have a flashback, flip-out, and rip someone’s face off at the sight of the wooden collar?

  17. There was a period in his younger days when my father was a semi-pro magician, working both on small stages and table-side… He always said kids under 3 were impossible to do magic in front of, because they had so few expectations that they couldn’t be mis-directed, and they were never more surprised and amazed by the magic than they were by everything else they encountered.

    I *love* this video. I love, as others have said, seeing the wheels turn in the ape’s (“I am NOT A MONKEY” — thank you, Planet of the Apes) head. From his putting the ear on his own head on, it’s just great fun to watch, to observe how damned smart he is. The human race must come up with a sliding scale of rights eventually. I wish I thought it would happen in my or my children’s lifetimes, but it will happen eventually, provided we survive.

  18. I like how with the handkerchief in the ear trick, the chimp knew something shifty was going on and started looking up his sleeves.

  19. they have done experiments to research chimp deceit. From what I remember, yes they understand cheating and get angry about it.

  20. What a fun clip! I read the hugs as the chimp expressing love and appreciation for the magic he was seeing. He didn’t seem at all scared or unsettled, except with the sword through neck (and even that one was handled pretty gently).

    As a magician myself, I have frequently done simple ball (or biscuit) vanishes for dogs. I have noted that dogs vary widely in how quickly they bust you and go for the other hand once the item vanishes from the first hand. Some never figure it out, others know pretty quickly. With a biscuit or slobbery tennis ball, I imagine the smell is a bit of a tip off.

    This chimp is way smarter than a dog, in that he didn’t once fall for a simple hand to hand transposition vanish. If you watch, he immediately goes for the other hand…and busts the magician a few times.

    Later in the video, the magi wises up and switches methods. When the chimp goes for the other hand, then he is fooled because the coin isn’t there, either.

    Also, as noted above, the magician is able to use a “fake-out” during the glass under newspaper vanish. The chimp understands that the coin is supposed to vanish and is surprised when it’s still there. But when the glass vanishes, he jumps because he knows immediately his hand should be pushing down on the glass. The vanish works beautifully.

    I don’t think that type of switcheroo, in which you subvert expectations of what should happen, would work on a dog.

  21. #9: I don’t think the hugs were cued, but they don’t look particularly genuine. I suspect he’s been trained to hug for a reward. The clip is interesting and entertaining, but at the same time, makes me uneasy. There’s definitely an exploitative aspect and stagecraft beyond the magic that disguises what’s really going on.

  22. I like that chimp’s quickness of mind, curiosity, it’s way of expressing itself through immediate physical action. A very lively, spontaneous mind there.

    I wondered if this might have been unkind though, playing with the chimp’s head that way. We tell kids, “It’s not really magic. It’s tricks.” That chimp is pretty smart, so it might be smart enough to figure this out on its own, but what if it doesn’t? Has it lost some of its admirable grasp of what’s possible and what’s not?

  23. @14 CJP

    Remember, the lower the IQ, the stronger the belief in “magic”. (Go ahead, change that to “religion”- you know you were thinking that, too)

    I suspect the folks who knew Jack Parsons might be inclined to disagree with this idea. And surely there have been one or two religious devotees throughout history with high IQs. Outliers all?

    Conversely are all skeptics of high IQ?

  24. I hate to be a buzz kill – but the hugging is because he is scared. You see bits and pieces of him showing a “fear grin” and I personally think he is stressed throughout this – and that is the reason why he is hugging. In the wild, hugging is a sign of reassurance – and it shows he is stressed. Something else to note is how quickly he sits on his seat when told – I wonder how he was trained (usually by being forced).

  25. This video is no longer avaliable due to a copyright claim by Association of Copyright for Computer Software.

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