It is said that the ability to use tools is an important commonality shared between humans and non-human primates — likewise, so it seems, is the desire to be free. In the early hours of the morning yesterday, a group of eight capuchin monkeys made a remarkably clever escape from a zoo in Brazil. Much to the surprise of staffers at the small facility, the daring monkeys appear to have used a stone tool to break the locks of their enclosure before fleeing into the surrounding forest.

Of the eight monkey to escape the facility in the Brazilian state of Paraná, officials have only managed to capture four so far. Zoo coordinator Gladis Dalamina told Globo that fruit-lined cage traps were successful in capturing three of the monkeys in the hours after the break out. The forth was found a day later after it broke into a nearby restaurant.

“It was a surprise because this isn’t the jungle here, and to have [a monkey] enter my establishment,” said the restaurant owner. “It was fun.”

Dalamina says that he and his staff will continue to try to track down the rest of the escapees, but that he thinks he’s already nabbed the brains of the zoo-break — an older monkey named Ceará, along with his girlfriend Amarela. According to officials, this isn’t the first time monkeys have tried to escape the small community zoo, though using a stone tool has been their most surprising and effective method yet.

“Their job is to run. Our’s is to catch.”

Capuchin monkeys are thought to be the most intelligent of the New World monkeys, exhibiting a remarkable ability to use stone tools. Researchers have observed capuchins in the wild gathering rocks, often collected from great distances away, to help them to crack open hard nuts. This skill is passed on generationally as younger monkeys learn by watching their elders.

Applying this same tool usage to the novel task of breaking locks, however, indicates an extraordinary use of logic to solve the unnatural dilemma of their captivity. But what’s more, perhaps, is the fundamental desire which guided their actions: the longing to be free.


See “Animal Agency: Resistance, Rebellion, and the Struggle for Autonomy”