.... [Head keeper Jerry] Stones finally managed to catch Fu Manchu in the act. First, the young ape climbed down some air-vent louvers into a dry moat. Then, taking hold of the bottom of the furnace door, he used brute force to pull it back just far enough to slide a wire into the gap, slip a latch and pop the door open. The next day, Stones noticed something shiny sticking out of Fu's mouth. It was the wire lock pick, bent to fit between his lip and gum and stowed there between escapes.
Apparently, Orangutans are the escape artists of the animal world. This particular incident happened back in 1968, but scientists at the time weren't paying attention, as they were busy with their apes struggling with language and performing tasks in their labs.
However, Eugene Lynden, author of several books on animal intelligence, found it more than interesting. Lynden's 1999 article on animal intelligence is remarkable for the way that it's astutely anecdotal. Lynden had realized what "now seems obvious: if animals can think, they will probably do their best thinking when it serves their purposes, not when some scientist asks them to", and he then began to speak to a broad range of people who work intimately with animals: zookeepers, veterinarians, trainers, and yes, researchers. He says,
Get a bunch of keepers together and they will start telling stories about how their charges try to outsmart, beguile or otherwise astonish humans. They tell stories about animals that hoodwink or manipulate their keepers, stories about wheeling and dealing, stories of understanding and trust across the vast gulf that separates different species. And, if the keepers have had a few drinks, they will tell stories about escape.
Each of these narratives reveals another facet of what I have become convinced is a new window on animal intelligence: the kind of mental feats they perform when dealing with captivity and the dominant species on the planet--humanity.Though it's an old article, it's only recently available online. It remains worth reading for the astonishing and amusing stories of animal wit—and lack, thereof. Among other things, what becomes clear is how complex, non-linear, and multifaced is anything we might call intelligence. Certainly animals have it, but with lacunae in areas one might not expect.