The phrase “cheeky monkey” has some basis in fact, if a new study on the behavior of primates is anything to go by.
The paper, published in a Royal Society science journal, studied monkeys at Uluwatu Temple in Bali, Indonesia, who steal items from humans — such as bags, sunglasses, hats, tablets and phones — and hold them to ransom in exchange for offerings of food.
It found adult wild long-tailed macaque monkeys were intelligent enough to comprehend which items had the highest value to the visitors, and would only release it after receiving food they perceived to be of corresponding value.
The authors said the behavior displayed “unprecedented economic decision-making processes” among the monkeys. The scientists, from Canada and Indonesia, observed that, as well as being able to “use objects as symbolic tools to request specific food rewards,” the ability of the monkeys to barter successfully increased with age and experience.