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9 Animals who think they're human


1st Jan 2015 Animals & Pets

9 Animals who think they're human

From practising yoga to driving a car, here are nine of our favourite stories of animals at their most personable.

Monkey Business


At Yale University, economist Keith Chen gave capuchin monkeys some tokens to buy differently priced types of food (in the lab). Once they’d grasped the basic idea, the monkeys not only showed a clear understanding of how to budget, but also responded to price changes in much the same way as we do: when something was cheaper, they bought more of it.


Whale Meet Again


Every winter Michael Fishbach, co-director of the Great Whale Conservancy, travels to the Gulf of California to study whales. In 2011, he and his team spent an hour freeing a humpback whale from a fishing net—and afterwards, in an hour-long display of thanks and gratitude at being alive, it swam near their boat, leaping into the air at least 40 times.


Paw to the Floor


In 2012, three New Zealand dogs navigated a specially modified Mini Cooper around a racetrack at about 20mph. (The gearstick and pedals were raised, and handles added to the steering wheel.) The event was put on by the Auckland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to show off canine intelligence. After months of practice—and many, many treats—Monty, Porter and Ginny followed commands to go into gear, press the accelerator and steer with their paws. See for yourself!


Fun with Pandas


Is there anything more cute than a baby panda? In fact, just to make them even cuter, the cubs sometimes behave like human babies: they sleep in the same positions and they place great value on their own thumbs. (Pandas use theirs for holding the bamboo they munch on all day.) Pandas are shy by nature, displaying such coy behaviour as covering their face with a paw or ducking their head when confronted by a stranger. But they’re also playful: according to one Chinese website, pandas have been known to wander inside mountain homes and get into the pots and pans.

And although they grow into solitary adults who roam alone and mate just once a year, they also like to snuggle. Given the chance, they’ll even sleep side by side with domestic pets. Just like us!


Eating Like a Horse


Horses have a far keener sense of smell than humans. When they wrinkle their noses and flare their nostrils, they’re activating their vomeronasal organ, which allows them to detect smells that we’re unable to. They also have taste buds on the back of their tongues and the roofs of their mouths—which, according to experts, might explain why they reject stale water and, like gourmets, move carefully around meadows, grazing on only the tastiest herbs and grasses.


Yogi Bear


Santra, a female bear at Finland’s Ähtäri Zoo, entertained visitors with a 15-minute “yoga” routine following a nap. Sitting upright, Santra used her front paws to grab her right back paw, then her left, stretching her legs as if doing a one-legged split. Next, she demonstrated the open-leg seated balance pose to near perfection, pulling up both hind legs without toppling backwards. Meta Penca, who happened to be at the zoo and snapped photos of Santra’s performance, said the bear “looked focused and calm”.


Guide kitty 


After Terfel, an eight-year-old labrador retriever in North Wales, developed cataracts last year, he began to bump into walls and furniture. Soon, the once-energetic dog was spending most of his time in his bed, unable to find his way around. On a whim, Terfel’s owner Judy Godfrey-Brown let a stray cat, whom she named Pwditat (pronounced Puddy-tat), into her home. The feline made a beeline for the blind dog and began using its paws and head to herd Terfel into the garden. Now the unlikely friends sleep together, and Pwditat helps Terfel find his way everywhere.


Room for one more hump?


The first time Joe dined with Nathan and Charlotte Anderson-Dixon and their son Reuben, he was uninvited. The four-year-old Bactrian camel (the kind with two humps, and much rarer than the one-humped dromedary) stuck his head through their open kitchen window in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and proceeded to empty the contents of a fruit bowl. Now the couple—who hire out reindeer, camels, goats and other creatures for TV shows, movies and photoshoots—set a place at their breakfast table for Joe, where he munches on cereal and his favourite: bananas on toast.


My Mate, Marmot


A colony of marmots in the Austrian Alps has embraced Matteo Walch, an Innsbruck schoolboy whose family go on holiday there in the summer. Alpine marmots are a particularly large species, sometimes reaching 15lb. Typically, they react to strangers by beating their tails, chattering and whistling to warn other marmots of danger.

With Matteo, they behave very differently—allowing him to feed, pet and even touch noses with them. Matteo’s mother Michaela has taken photographs of her son’s interaction with the marmots since 2008, when he was four. “Watching them makes me feel a connection with nature,” she says.