Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

NATURE: Clever Monkeys

Airs Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Toque macaques huddle together after a member of their troop is killed in

Credit: ©BBC

Above: Toque macaques huddle together after a member of their troop is killed in "Nature: Clever Monkeys."

Just how smart are monkeys? Their innate curiosity leads them to try new things, but it’s their culture — the passing of information from one generation to the next — that teaches them much of what they know. Their young learn by reaching out with their hands to experience the world around them, grasping new objects, slowly piecing together an understanding of their society. They learn from their families how to find food, communicate, recognize kin, even use tools, medicine, and language. It is these familiar actions that make monkeys so fascinating to humans. We can see ourselves in their faces, our nature in their actions.

NATURE travels around the world to visit some of these fascinating primates. From tiny pygmy marmoset in South America to aggressive baboons of Africa and compassionate toque macaques in Sri Lanka, "Clever Monkeys" challenges many ideas about what is purely “human.”

Video Excerpt: Clever Monkeys: Baboon Hunts Baby Gazelle

When monkeys left the forest and began living in open grasslands, they had to adapt. Baboons, for example, became more aggressive and predatory. Baboons will move around in groups of about 80 individuals for defense. Often, the larger males will go on offense as well -- chasing away predators or taking down a young gazelle. "Clever Monkeys" airs on PBS Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 8 p.m. (check local listings).

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.