A group of German scientists have hailed a cheeky Ugandan chimpanzee called Natasha as a “genius” who is “intellectually closer to humans than most apes.”
According to findings published online by The Sun, a UK-based newspaper yesterday, Natasha, who lives in Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria, can communicate with people and manipulate them.
The 22-year-old demands extra food by clapping at caretakers during feeding time. She also gets her fun by playfully beckoning people to fling food her way, then spraying them with water.
Dr Joshua Rukundo, the sanctuary’s operations director, confirmed that a group of scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Germany was at the sanctuary and carried out a study on selected chimpanzees five years ago.
“Natasha is definitely among the most intelligent chimpanzees you will ever find,” said Dr Rukundo, who also doubles as the veterinary doctor at the sanctuary.
“But I think it is rather biased to zero down on Natasha when the study was selective. Many other intelligent chimpanzees were left out of the process due to different reasons.”
Chimpanzees, which carry up to 98.7 per cent similar DNA to humans, have near-human levels of intelligence as they are able to pick up behavioural practices from people around them. “We have a couple of clever ones like Africa, Rambo and Pasa, and most of the females,” added Dr Rukundo.
“For instance we have an electric fence surrounding their feeding area to ensure no chimp escapes but Pasa always does. She will pick a green branch and throw it at the fence to check if the power is on and will escape as soon as she doesn’t see a spark,” Dr Rukundo said, before adding that Pasa simply refused to be examined by the scientists. He hinted on the possibility that Natasha could be the most intelligent chimp in the world.
“She has such advanced social skills that will leave you wondering.”
Natasha was born in the wild and it is thought that she could have been orphaned after her mother was killed by pet traders.
But she was rescued from two years of captivity and was among the very first chimps to be accommodated at Ngamba, a sanctuary that was gazetted in October 1998.
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