Saturday, 29 November 2008
You simply have to get onto the iPlayer and watch Natural World's Cheeky Monkey episode Clever Monkeys!
Narrated by David Attenborough, this Natural World gem intends to explore how monkeys throughout the world should challenge our perceptions of what it is to be human.
From our ability to hold images in our minds to our capacity for language, it seems that somewhere in the world one of our cousins will have mastered the same!
Some astonishing stories have been dug up here from the Marmosets farming sap from trees to the White-faced capuchins cracking clams open and using their tails as sponges to soak up rainwater from inside tree trunks.
There is also some world class footage from close-up facial expressions to stunning wide angle views, and the first few minutes' editing and music build a wonderful cheeky start to the programme.
I do have to note that there are occasional over-anthropomorphic assumptions made. I did find myself grinding my teeth as some very selective editing suggested that a group of macaques were feeling sad at the loss of their leader, and I found myself very grumpy with Mr. Attenborough when he suggested that a "clever" monkey had mastered the lie when in fact he was most likely merely mastering a situation of cause and effect.
No great conclusions should be made about monkey "intelligence" from the programme but it is fantastically researched and really delightful to watch. A valuable addition to the NHU archives, so long as the BBC sell it for what it is: a lovely collection of interesting behaviours and a glimpse of how some of our great accomplishments as humans might have began.
Natural World's Clever Monkeys, first broadcast on BBC2, is available to view online until Tues December 16th and was co-produced by the BBC and Thirteen/WNET New York.
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