Chimpanzees Possess the Ability to Cook, and Can Appreciate a Good Sweet Potato

The animals showed a clear preference for cooked foods over raw, and were capable of waiting for the cooking process to occur

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

The chimpanzees in this study showed an understanding of the causal relationship necessary for cooking. 

In a collaborative research project from Harvard and Yale, cognitive scientists have found that chimpanzees possess the ability to cook, so long as they have the proper tools.

For two years, doctors Felix Warneken and Alexandra G. Rosati, a married couple, spent time at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo to run a series of experiments testing the animals’ cognitive abilities.

When testing revealed that the chimps would indeed cook if given the chance, the duo created a “magic cooking device,” described by Dr. Werneken to The New York Times as “two plastic bowls that fit closely together with pre-cooked food hidden in the bottom tub.”

The chimpanzees learned to place a piece of raw sweet potato into the “machine,” then wait for one of the researchers to “shake and bake” and remove the top bowl, revealing a piece of cooked sweet potato.

The scientists were also able to observe the chimpanzees waiting for cooked food from the device instead of eating the readily available raw food, bringing food from the opposite side of the cage to be cooked, and even putting in other kinds of food.

The experiments showed that chimps had both the patience required for cooking as well as the “minimal causal understanding they would need” to grasp the concept of cooking. 

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