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Name: Tracie
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Hi. I recently visited a zoo and saw something I was curious about. I really hope not to offend you by asking this question as I mean no disrespect. while at the zoo over the weekend, I was looking at the Chimpanzee and there was on in particular where the chimp decided to go to the bathroom in his hand. After going to the bathroom he then decided to eat it. It was something I was kind of shocked at and could not believe. Is it natural for a chimp to do something along those lines and if so, why? I tried to look for a zoo keeper to ask this question but it was towards the end of the day and was unable to locate on. I hope your able to answer this question and again I mean no disrespect by asking it. Just curious as to why something like that would happen.


I am not a chimpanzee or any other animal researcher But I have watched animals in zoos, in the wild and at home.

To answer your question, it is a behavioral thing. Animals do not have the sense of cleanliness or propriety that humans do. It is just beyond their mental capability. The least repulsive thing I've seen is monkeys grooming each other, eating the bugs that they find. In different zoos, gorillas are known to poop in their hand and then throw it at the people who are watching them. Fish eat all kinds of yukky stuff. And don't watch your dog or cat at home too closely.

Here is a definition of propriety in case that word throws you:

1. conformity to established standards of good or proper behavior or manners.

2. appropriateness to the purpose or circumstances; suitability.

3. rightness or justness.

4. the proprieties, the conventional standards of proper behavior; manners: to observe the proprieties.


Sincere regards,

Mike Stewart

This behavior (coprophagia) is actually very common with different animal species, including chimps. Some animals such as rabbits cannot properly digest their food with only one pass through their system, so they leave soft droppings behind which they eat, re-digest, and form into the typical hard pellets you see. Others like elephant calves, will eat their mothers feces to gain beneficial bacteria. In the case of primates, scientists believe that they might not absorb all the vitamins and nutrients the first time though, so they re-eat it for vitamin and nutrient absorption.

Grace Fields

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