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Chimpstagram: video of ape browsing app goes viral

Chimpanzees are known to use at least 22 types of tools in the wild but in captivity a less rudimentary device now appears to be within ape capabilities – Instagram.

Last week, a video showing a chimpanzee casually swiping through Instagram on a smartphone was posted on the photo-sharing application by Kody Antle, son of Mahamayavi Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who is founder of Myrtle Beach Safari, a 50-acre wildlife reserve in South Carolina.

The post showed the chimp, named Sugriva according to Antle’s caption, scrolling through pictures and tapping on a video showing the animal leaping into the arms of Mike Holston, an American former professional football player, who now posts videos of various exotic animals on social media under the moniker The Real Tarzan.

The video highlighted the curiosity and adaptive nature of chimps, which share 99% of their DNA with humans, making them our closest living relatives in the natural world.

“We’ve known for a long time they have higher intellectual abilities,” said Patricia Wright, a primatologist at Stony Brook University. “This particular chimp is choosing other chimps from photos on Instagram, showing he recognizes not just objects but his own kind.”

Researchers have established before that chimps can navigate technology beyond behaviour seen in the wild, where the apes have been recorded using stone hammers to crack nuts, poking sticks in termite mounds to extract the insects and holding up leaves to use as umbrellas in rainy weather.

In studies, chimps have been found to be adept at computer games, to the extent that one 22-year-old chimp called Panzee managed to outperform 12 children and four adults on a complex maze in a virtual-reality game. The apes can also learn to use tools spontaneously, without watching others first, and appear to solve puzzles for fun, even without getting any sort of reward.

“Chimps have been shown to use computers for quite some time,” said Wright. “People use social media to connect with family and friends and so it’s not too much of a surprise that our closest relative would also use it for that. They are very much like us.”