Primates learn to make fire

A new study has found that langur monkeys can be taught to light matches.

Southern Plains Grey Langur or Hanuman Langur juvenile portrait (Semnopithecus dussumieri). Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. March 2014.

Scientists in India have been teaching a group wild grey langur monkeys, known as the Bandar-log, how to set branches aflame.


The ground-breaking research by a team of zoologists from JB University was led by Mr R. Kipling.

Some members of the community expressed their surprise at the study. Local resident Baloo said, “Oh boy! I’ve seen everything in these woods.”

But others expressed their concerns, citing the previous reckless behaviour of the langurs – kidnapping a young child – and the danger they could pose to the forest and its inhabitants.

“An extraordinary performance,” said forest resident Shere Khan, before leaving the area over worries of a potential wildfire.


© Manoj Shah

The leader of the Bandar-log, an orangutan nicknamed King Louie by the researchers, was excluded from the study, as the scientists believed that he could become a pyromaniac if taught this skill.

“What I desire is man’s red fire,” said Louie, “To make my dream come true.”


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