Weird & Wild | Viral Explainer

Watch Curious Chimp Knock a Drone Out of the Sky

Viral video shows a chimpanzee take action when a drone gets too close.

Video courtesy Royal Burgers' Zoo

Most folks wouldn’t be thrilled at having a noisy drone fly over their home. It seems our closest living relatives feel the same way.

Just ask Tushi, a clever chimpanzee at a Netherlands zoo who has the Internet in stitches after she was captured on video using a branch to take out a drone that got too close for comfort.

Footage retrieved from the unmanned aerial vehicle at Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem shows Tushi lying in wait on a platform, a long branch hidden behind her back. As the drone flies by, she lunges, trying to knock down the noisy invader.

After she succeeds, swatting the $2,000 device to the ground, the curious chimp jumps on it and pulls off some propellers before losing interest and wandering off.

“We were flabbergasted,” says zoo spokesman Bas Lukkenaar. “It shows, once again, just what intelligent animals they are.”

The drone, which was capturing footage for a television series, aroused immediate interest when it flew over the chimpanzee habitat, says Lukkenaar. Most of the chimps calmed down after a few minutes, but Tushi remained lurking in a tree, waiting for an opportunity.

At the zoo, Tushi is notorious for her playful curiosity—and for her great aim. Says Lukkenaar: “We weren’t surprised that she was the one to hit it down.”

Curious Chimp?

Tushi’s behavior might look like an act of aggression, but the chimp was probably just curious, says Susana Carvalho, a primatologist and archaeologist who has studied chimpanzees in Guinea.

Carvalho, a National Geographic grantee, says that the music in the video drowns out Tushi’s vocalizations, making it hard to tell whether she was afraid, but suggests the chimpanzee wouldn’t have approached the drone if she feared it.

“I see this as curiosity and exploration,” says Carvalho. “She didn’t know what the drone was, it was flying low and she could reach it—so she did.”

Chimpanzees are known to poke and prod at unfamiliar objects, often damaging them in the process, says Iowa State University primatologist Jill Pruetz, also a National Geographic grantee.

She says that chimp habitats are “the last place I would fly a drone.”

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