Scientists have long known of the preference of chimps for cooked foods when the option os present, but a new study reveals something even more interesting: if given the chance, chimps may have the planning, patience, and understanding to actually cook!
To test the chimps, scientists used a bowl with a hole on the bottom as a sort of cooking device. The testing went like this: the chimps thought a raw potato slice went into the bowl, the scientists then “cooked” the potato by shaking the bowl, and then a “cooked” potato slice would come out. The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
According to the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, chimps in their study would regularly put their raw potato slice into the bowl, expecting a cooked potato to come out after a while.
And even If given the chance to put a non-food item or a cooked potato into the cooker, they would only put a raw potato.
Even more surprising is that in some cases the animals took the effort to carry the raw potato a short distance just to get the gratification of getting a cooked potato slice. They didn’t always succeed though.
According to Yale psychologist Alexandra Rosati, one of the study’s authors: “They’d often try to carry it with their mouth, because chimpanzees are knuckle walkers, and you’d almost see them accidentally eat the food on their way over, almost like ‘oops’ they couldn’t even resist, because they were carrying the food in their mouth.”
Some chimpanzees, about half, were able to resist the temptation of eating their potato slices. Some even saved up to 28 slices in the hope of cooking them later.
According to a psychologist at Harvard University and co-author of the study, Felix Warneken: “Usually chimpanzees just eat what they can get right away and would never give up edible food, so it was remarkable to see that.”