Watch this adorable orangutan's response to a simple yet effective magic trick

[Read the post]


My first thought in watching that was: how do people perform experiments on primates? Or really, what type of person could do such a thing. Do I have too much feels or are they just somewhere in the narcissistic/sociopathic spectrum?


It’s all to easy to attribute human reactions to animals. Every magician who has a pet (dog or cat, usually) has tried doing tricks on them. They’re excellent to practice on because they can be misdirected, just like humans. But they don’t “get” the fact that something magical has happened.

We don’t know why this orangutan reacted the way it did. It would only be through repeat performances of this trick on this and other orangutans that one would be able to see if they seemed to understand that something unexplainable (to them) has taken place and they react with puzzlement, delight, or wonder. Or frustration—a reaction many humans have to magic tricks.

1 Like

Being a veterinarian who has worked zoos, and worked with primates, I can easily say that many of the things we attribute as “human” aren’t. Very possibly not even “primate” in some cases, but I think you’d be surprised at just how little separates you from the other great apes…

(and if you want to know this on a personal level, I’d suggest figuring out how to do some volunteer work with primates).


I hear you mang, and I have the same feels, but we know a lot about brain structure and chemistry because many primates died, pretty much all of biologic psychology (anti-depression medication for one example) comes from a path that leads back to animal experimentation.

1 Like

I remember an interview with Jane Goodall. She was asked if chimps have emotions. She said something like … well they don’t have human emotions because they aren’t human. They have chimp emotions which are just as real and might be human-like in many cases.


You could as easily apply any of those arguments to any human other than yourself. I think it’s pretty arrogant of us to automatically ascribe such different motivations to our own when we see animals behaving similarly to us.


I can’t be the only one who was hoping that the reaction would be enraged feces-throwing.


The idea of humans being completely separate from animals has crumbled steadily since day one, and I don’t see any signs of it stopping. The idea that animals don’t have emotions is no longer plausible to anyone who has ever owned a pet, and even more recent ideas of “uniquely human” behaviors have fallen.

In addition to primates, dolphins, elephants, octopi and a slew of other animals have been show to construct and/or use tools, sometimes teaching the behavior to their offspring. Many animals have been shown to communicate with each other through what could arguably be considered language (whale songs, bee dances, prairie dog calls, etc.), not just general ideas but specific, detailed information. Even when it comes to human communication, primate sign language isn’t the only candidate- the African Grey parrot Alex (short for Avian Language EXperiment) went beyond simple mimicry, showing the ability to identify colors and shapes, to count, and understand concepts such as “bigger”, “smaller”, “over”, “under”, and even “zero”.

While I agree that it would be interesting to perform the trick multiple times for different orangutans and see what happens, the extreme skepticism against a fully-grown orangutan “getting” a trick which has been shown to genuinely puzzle even infant humans seems pretty unwarranted. At this point in our knowledge it seems like the assumption that it wouldn’t get it is the extraordinary claim.


Well, you could try it on Trump and see what happens, I suppose…


That seems like a lot of mental acrobatics to get around the very simple notion that the orangutan was, at very least, surprised by the disappearance of the chestnut that he was watching so closely. We don’t know if he was ‘laughing’ or ‘filled with wonder’, no, but I think we can Occam’s Razor this video to say that the orang got a kick out of this magic trick.


not shown: the orangutan kicks the magician


Oh man, that orangutang’s reaction was wonderful


Kreegah, bundolo!

1 Like

There was an interesting article in New Scientist magazine a year or two back about signing with gorillas and bonobos.
Although they were able to answer an impressive number of questions, the odd thing was, that apparently they have never asked any questions of us.


Someone who loves these animals. Someone who can see wonder beyond the limits of their own subjective experience. Someone who wants to help.

Keeping intelligent being like an orangoutang engaged and stimulated is both vital for their health and challenging. They learn fast. So why not try a magic trick? Toddlers learning object permanence delight in “where did the ball go” tricks. Both of my daughters did. So why not treat this young orangoutang to the same loving “experiment” humans do with their own children every day?

What is “wrong” about that “experiment”?


He should go a step further and teach the orangutan how it’s done.
S/he’ll become the leader of the troop in no time.
Hmm, or possibly murdered by them.


When one of the early explorers (Peary?) first visited Inuit (or whatever is the modern term; I’m afraid I haven’t kept up) he asked a lot of questions but noticed they asked none of him. So he asked why. They told him that in their culture it was impolite to ask questions, but they realised that this was not so in his culture and made allowances for him.


This is not a criticism of Jane Goodall, but she comes from an earlier period of primatology/psychology/neuroscience when thinking was still very influenced, if unconsciously, by the idea that humans were essentially different from other mammals. Since then this idea, which is derived from the Abrahamic religions, has been steadily weakening as its premise is perceived as wrong.
In the 1960s and 70s it was still believed that it was rare for infectious diseases to cross between species, something which has turned out to be completely wrong.
The mere concept of chimp emotions being human like is the same fallacy as “man being descended from the apes”. It looks as if emotion preceded logical thought, and that our emotions, chimp emotions and dog emotions have much common ancestry, and have simply diverged as species diverged from the mammalian lineage.
(It’s actually worse than that because so much psychological research has been conducted on white middle class students that results in some cases may not be typical of the human population as a whole. Not only speciesist but ethnist.)


You totally missed the implied subject of my post. The magic trick was just that, with a human interacting with a primate & demonstrating empathy.

The experiments I was referring to were laboratory experiments- because in watching that I have a hard time making a leap to “let’s do some experiments that, were it human, would be torture”

@Awallace230 got it: