Most human children get used to communicating their wants and needs to the people around them who can help fulfill those wants and needs. And while chimpanzees don’t communicate in quite the same way as humans do, they nonetheless have the ability to tell each other — and humans — exactly what they want. In a video making the rounds on Reddit, an older chimpanzee does just that, assertively demanding that a zoo visitor serve up some Mountain Dew through a small hole in the edge of her captivity enclosure.
The gray-haired chimp is remarkable in that she seems to know exactly what she wants and, more importantly, how to get it. She clearly instructs the human how to deliver the goods, gesturing at a soda in a zoo visitor’s bag, then pointing at a crack in the barrier where the visitor can pour that sweet, sweet Dew. The whole video is an impressive study in efficient communication.
“In my experience, this kind of communicative behavior is relatively common amongst chimpanzees who have been raised in captivity. Through a lifetime of interactions with humans, many chimps manage to figure out how to ‘ask’ for what they want from humans — whether it’s food or just attention,” Watson says. “They can be very charming animals, and they know how to use it!”
Beyond this chimpanzee’s charm, though, is a bit of ingenuity. Watson says that from what we can see in the video, it looks like the chimp must have figured out there was a leak in the enclosure (possibly when it was raining) and learned how to exploit the breach. What’s more, the chimp appears to recognize that only soda can get through.
“It also seemed to understand the limitations of the hole,” says Watson, “since it persistently gestured to the soda bottle even when shown a tasty banana.”
Watson says that while it can feel really special to have a chimpanzee communicate with you, it’s never a good idea to feed human food to a zoo animal. The diets of zoo animals are specially formulated to support not just the animals’ biology but also the unique limitations of living in captivity. So, at the risk of telling you all what you already know: Please don’t give a chimp soda, no matter how nicely it asks.