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
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.
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.
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Update: June 2012