We love celebrating Chinese New Year here at Grosvenor. The celebrations are vibrant and exciting, and the cultural significance of each year’s animal is fascinating. This year, it’s the Year of the Monkey – one of our favourite creatures!
In Chinese culture, monkeys symbolise cleverness, and are even associated with nobility. But it isn’t their intelligence that make monkeys such charming animals – here are seven amazing facts you might not know about them.
1. They have a festival dedicated to them
Or should we say ‘feastival’? Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, in the Lopburi province of Thailand, plays host to the annual Monkey Buffet Festival. The festival sees more than 600 macaques gorge themselves on around 4,000 kilograms of fruit and other treats: a thank you for bringing thousands of tourists to Lopburi each year.
If you’re planning a visit, remember to keep a sharp eye on your belongings. The curious macaques aren’t averse to stealing whatever takes their fancy!
2. Some can damage your hearing
Howler monkeys sound more like they’re celebrating the Year of the Dragon than the Year of the Monkey! Their eerie, 90 decibel roars can be heard up to three miles away, and are classed as being loud enough to damage your hearing. It’s all about territory, with males using these intimidating calls to warn off trespassing rivals.
3. Monkeys range dramatically in size
Did you know that the smallest monkey on the planet weighs little more than 100 grams? The pygmy marmoset is truly tiny, and only grows to around six inches in length. The mandrill, on the other hand, is our largest monkey, weighing in at around 35 kilograms. They cut a hulking figure, but nothing compared to the great apes. A mature silverback gorilla can weigh between 60 and 80 kilograms, and stand around 5.5 feet tall.
4. Chimpanzees are practically family
These apes are our closest living relatives. In fact, we share around 99 per cent of their DNA. Just like us, they use tools to solve problems, are incredibly social and have hierarchical relationships. They can even be taught sign language.
In one study, a chimpanzee named Austin figured out that he could watch himself on a television monitor that was recording his actions. He opened his mouth to look at his teeth, but when he couldn’t see them properly, grabbed a torch and shone it into his mouth.
5. Gorillas can use sign language
Another ape with an aptitude for sign language is the gorilla. One particularly famous gorilla, Koko, is by far the most talented. Learning sign language since she was a year old, by the age of 40 she could use around 1,000 different signs and understand 2,000 spoken words.
Koko’s understanding of language was made even clearer when she heard about the death of the actor, Robin Williams, who had spent time with her in 2001. She spent the day with her head lowered and her lip quivering.
6. They’re also very agile
Imagine a gorilla climbing a tree and the image is likely to make you laugh. Surely these huge animals can’t traverse fragile branches? In fact, they can! Gorillas, including silverbacks, regularly climb trees to forage for fruit. Family groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo even sleep in the trees.
7. Orangutans’ arms out-measure humans
Male orangutans can have arms spanning seven feet, from one fingertip to another. This is up to two feet longer than their standing height, which might sound awkward, but in fact, is a special adaptation. With arms this length, both male and female orangutans can spend their days swinging through the trees, where they gather fruit and build nests.
Chinese New Year is the perfect time to celebrate these amazing animals. Have you learnt something new about the wonderful world of monkeys?