NATURE "Clever Monkeys" on WXXI-TV

NATURE "Clever Monkeys" on WXXI-TV

Sun, 03/28/2010 - 8:00pm
Tai, a sooty mangabey in the African rainforest, is one of the troop of multilingual monkeys, eight species who all understand each other's calls.

Credit: © Florian Möllers 1988

Who are the cleverest monkeys? And how much of human experience do they really share?

Crime, passion, love, language and the understanding of life and death are feelings humans know well. What we didn’t know is that all these intricate experiences are shared with our cousins — the monkeys. Through the cultivation of knowledge and the knack to adapt to a variety of environments, monkeys have formed sophisticated societies much like our own. NATURE “Clever Monkeys” travels several continents exploring various monkey species while capturing remarkable behaviors that many viewers likely have never seen before.

NATURE “Clever Monkeys, encores Sunday, March 28, 8:00 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11). Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham narrates. 

“This film is a fascinating look into the complex social structures of monkeys from around the world,” says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. “Their surprising intellect and their incredible psychological likeness to humans, ranging from terror to tenderness, will be an eye-opener for people of all ages.”

One point of similarity with our tree-swinging relatives is our sense of family and fixation on rearing our young. Monkey societies are multicultural and host different languages, personalities and physical features. For example, the capuchins in Costa Rica love a party, gathering to groom and medicate each other with an antiseptic plant. In the jungles of Africa lives a “United Nations” of monkeys like the diana monkeys, who are multilingual and recognize the individualized alarm call of other monkey species. In China the golden snub-nose monkeys have blue eye shadow, while the white uakari in the Amazon have a red face. As the film demonstrates, monkeys — much like people — are a diverse group. What we may think makes us human may not be uniquely human after all.