Clever Monkeys

Clever Monkeys

2008, Nature  -   42 Comments
Ratings: 7.66/10 from 47 users.

Clever MonkeysDavid Attenborough's entertaining romp through the world of monkeys has a serious side: for when we look at monkeys we can see ourselves. From memory to morality, from 'crying wolf' to politics, monkeys are our basic blueprint. Pygmy marmosets 'farm' tree sap; bearded capuchins in Brazil develop a production line for extracting palm nuts; white-faced capuchins in Costa Rica tenderly nurse the victims of battle; and in the Ethiopian highlands a deposed gelada baboon has got the blues.

What makes us human may not be uniquely human after all! We share love, language, guilt, envy, generosity, secrets, lies, and a sophisticated society with our closest relatives the monkeys!

From tiny pygmy marmoset in South America to aggressive baboons of Africa and compassionate toque macaques in Sri Lanka, NATURE travels around the world to capture never-before-seen monkey behavior that challenges many ideas about what is purely human. Academy Award©-winner F. Murray Abraham narrates this fascinating program that immerses viewers in monkey culture to reveal how and what monkeys teach their young, and how they communicate with each other.

Who are the cleverest monkeys? How much of our human experience do they really share? Just how smart are monkeys? You will find the answers to these provocative questions only in NATURE!

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42 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Clive Illman

    7.82 out of 10?? This was one of the most revealing, astonishing and well crafted films I've seen. For crying out loud - this film, like Attenborough himself, of course - is 10 out of 10.

  2. Guest

    Cant see the video some one help me!

  3. Anthony Pirtle

    More Capuchins are killed by each other than by any predator. Yep, they really are a lot like us.

  4. Morgain McGovern

    Thank you so much for this. Gave me a little faith in humanity again.

  5. Ben Williams


    I'm looking for a documentary I saw about a super colony (6 or 7 different species) of monkeys living in concert. One species of monkeys were identified as the translators for the group, they could translate for all the different species i.e. "danger close" etc. Blew my mind watching this as it showed rudimentary sentence structure and grama.

    Does anyone know what series this was from, I came across it while channel surfing and would really love to find it again.

    1. Martin Marty マ (m)

      Do you mean different from the section in part 4 of Clever Monkeys?


    was anyone else just smiling while watching this? this is a great watch, enjoyed it and recommend it.

  7. Abhiroop Sharma

    evolution 101

  8. Nate Zona

    Terence McKenna has proposed a theory to explain the exponential growth of the brain, linking monkeys and humans over the span of two million years.

    Our ancient ancestors were canopy dwelling fruitarians and insectivores. As the climate changed and the tree line began to thin into grassland, the primates had to adjust their diet or perish.
    They began roaming the grasslands following ungulate beasts (ancient cows), scrounging for beetles underneath their dung.
    As they found beetles, they also came across coprophilic, psilocybin containing mushrooms.
    Psilocybin reacts in the following way...

    - In low doses it increases visual acuity (specifically edge detection), which allows for a greater success rate in acquiring food and not becoming food.

    - In moderate doses it causes Central Nervous System stimulation (arousal), which in males causes more frequent erections and subsequently an increased chance of successful copulation.

    - In large doses it dissolves the separation between self and others (ego death)
    and encourages glossolalia (mouth noises resembling speech "spontaneously" uttered in an unknown language).

    The individuals who braved the "potentially" unfavorable smell, taste, and look of the mushrooms would have a greater chance of passing on their genetics due to a better food supply, and more successful copulation.

    The "ego death" is very crucial to this theory however.
    Because the CNS stimulation would cause a more orgiastic society, and because in a true psychedelic state (consciousness-expanded) the lines of paternity are dissolved, the society would raise ALL the children as their own.
    NO "perceived" OWNERSHIP of women, children, land, or each-other by the males in the group!

    Thus, the primates who ingested Psilocybin, pharmacologically suppressed their natural male dominance hierarchy and discovered a sense of oneness, greater expression of emotion (eventually culminating in art), and greater survival rates due to heighten awareness!

    In this brief two million year time period, a window of opportunity opened for a small species of the trees and grasslands. Evolving into an erect, tool using, language wielding, inventive, creative species that would go on to explore a whole new dimension of perceptive reality.

    *This is just my brief summary, for the full, amazingly awesome, and incredibly detailed explanation... Listen to the man himself!!*

    look for "Conversations At The Edge Of Magic (Terence McKenna) [FULL]" on youtube!!!!

    Thanks for listening and THANK YOU Terence McKenna (we miss you!!)

    1. sknb

      Check out the research on the mushrooms place in early Christianity and early Christian art (if you haven't already) I think McKenna would be proud and intrigued.

    2. Nate Zona

      Yeah I read a book on that subject! It's called "Astrotheology and Shamanism" by Jan Irvin & Andrew Rutajit. It's based on John Marco Allegro's translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, wherein he found strong correlation between Jesus Christ and the [psychoactive] Mushroom.

    3. Nico Vlaming

      Hi sknb, could you point to some titles?

  9. Guest

    Watched this twice 'cause it had me giggling like a school girl and my daughters laughed along with me which was a big juicy cherry on my happy cake. Sometimes its just lovely to stop thinking for a while, forget everything and be a kid. All is well because monkeys make it so :))

  10. Guest

    Best opening few mins of any programme ever :)

  11. Squak

    David Attenborough?
    Well I know this is going to be good.

  12. Godsclaws

    smart lil buggers!!! great doco...

  13. jigme yeshi

    the monkeys was always thinking of unknown and one day, they left the forest to the unknown, its pretty funny, how me, tibetan history says they are from 2 monkeys who got 6 kids. from there, slowly evolution changed into homo sapiens
    i don't know or believe there is a creator(god), but i believe there is karma.
    it was funny when charles darwin from a study indicated that there is no god, 2 kids were picked from forest and was taught christian and wore good cloth, when were returned to their native forest, they fled and got naked and ran away
    but plz don't be like chinese goverment people, killing their own citizens for believing in god and religion. Aethist people like chinese goverment even if they don't believe in god or religion, karma will never vanish.
    peace don't judge my country men cuz chinese armies were like Nazis killing jew and others like he has right to take human lives. i feel funny about States(USA CIA) they stopped helping Tibetan armies after they had secret meeting with chinese president
    Chinese armies killed 100,000 of chinese young students who were protesting peacfully for Democracy. I wouldn't deal or build relationships with those if one is a firm human rights believer. i just laugh at UN and how they didn't respond and ignore there was chinese invasion in tibet in 1949, its as if money is more important, when they or us die, we can't even take a cent in hell, heaven or wherever and life is uncertain, so plz don't earn sins, jesus or god or anyone won't take a punishment for a crime and sins u commited. its like school. u do good u pass, u do bad, u fail
    sorry for too long i hate the chinese government so much, during their invasion, they torture nuns by electric shock in the vagina. now, who wanna build national relationship with China?
    but US and world will still do it just for the money, which surprises me.

  14. jigme yeshi


  15. Guest

    Fantastic documentary!


    That was a great documentary! Monkeys are fascinating,thank you for sharing

  17. kchief58

    Great Doc,,,

  18. Maya

    fascinating, informative, excellent. What else I can say about

    this documentary. Thanks million!

  19. ReligionIsntAllBad

    Great documentary ... really great. Love the acknowledgement of how much intelligence monkeys posses. As stated above, much better quality information, presumably from additional research, than when I was a youngster :)

  20. gero2006

    Fascinating to hear Attenborough narrating a script with a 'post-human' perspective on monkeys. What a contrast this makes with films he narrated just 5 or 10 years previously. Primatology is moving forward (at last). Do we have Haraway to thank for that?

  21. Olu

    Wow, I saw my neighbors in those clever monkeys. What a revelation. Haha!

  22. krishna

    Beautifully narrated.

  23. matty

    i love the bit when the monkeys pushed rocks off the rdge to scare the jaguar. Cheeky gits :)

  24. LisaP

    That was great! Monkeys are awesome.

  25. Tom

    Omg!! 46:30, that`s clever monkeys!!!!

  26. Roland Ansgar

    Love the use of Strauss at the end, alluding to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Monkeys make apes look dull.

  27. Swapnil Fulmali

    can anybody tell me
    similar episodes to these.....

  28. Nada

    Loved this doc! Watched it twice. :) Thanks, Vlatko!

  29. McGarvey

    Aww, look at the clever monkey. "Who's a clever monkey? Who's a clever monkey?" He looks like a wee person! Let's find a hat for him! Look! He's all annoyed now, look! Ha! Look at the grumpy wee monkey! Oooo-oooh Aaaa-aaah! Monkeys.

  30. Erik

    No video here, just text...

  31. ellebeck

    Yes, definitely a great quality video on an interesting topic. Would love to see more.

  32. Raya

    Great doc and great quality. I don't recognize the player but its the best one I've used.

  33. mm24

    Wow this is one of my all time favourite documentaries now.. This was a really nice one.
    Thank you so much for posting!

  34. Daisy

    Oh my gosh!!! I love monkeys so much more now! lol That was such a good documentary, so interesting. Those monkeys are alot smarter than many humans I know hehehe

  35. Charles B.

    Razor, Tossik, Candace: Ok! You convinced me!

    I have no fondness of monkeys (I'm a cat and horse lover myself), but my son thinks monkeys are great! When we were watching the evolution documentaries he kept saying "Daddy! Monkey! Look daddy! Monkey!" Much to my great distress.

    But real monkeys are ok. I'll watch this tonight with him because I love him. :-)

  36. Tossik

    Funny and truly amazing!

  37. Achems Razor

    Good doc. Some of these monkeys were hilarious! especially the ones stealing eggs from inside of a dwelling.

  38. candace

    This is definatly worth the watch. Monkeys never cease to amaze.