Who doesn’t love a great magic trick? Apparently, even orangutans love them.
A video that has gone viral shows an orangutan at a zoo in Barcelona, Spain, watching a visitor perform a magic trick. The man shows the ape a cup, then places an object inside of it. He then does a nifty sleight of hand and shows the orangutan the cup, which is now empty. After a moment, the orangutan gets the trick and falls over in — what seems to be — pure delight.
Researchers commonly regard orangutans as highly intelligent animals. While it isn’t surprising to see this great ape interacting with a human through the glass, it’s wild to see the orangutan laugh in response.
YouTube user Dan Zaleski uploaded the video on Dec. 7, 2015, and it’s since been viewed more than 31 million times. Check it out below:
Do Orangutans Actually Laugh?
Now you’re probably wondering: Did this magic trick actually amuse the orangutan? Are primates actually capable of laughter?
The answer, according to National Geographic, is yes.
National Geographic writer Liz Langley points to the “laughing noises” Koko — the famous gorilla who learned signed language and who died in June 2018 at age 46 — reportedly made in response to funny happenings around her.
Indeed, if you tune into this video from National Geographic around the two-minute mark, you can see Michael — the male gorilla who was raised with Koko — laughing in response to a researcher’s tickles.
[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqJf1mB5PjQ” /]
NatGeo writer Langley also points to research conducted in 2009 that found young primates had “tickle-induced vocalizations” when tickled.
Researcher Marina Davila Ross recorded acoustics from 21 infant and juvenile primates including orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees. Researchers compared the sounds that these apes made when tickled to the sounds of a human infant being tickled.
“Taken together, the results provide strong evidence that tickling-induced laughter is homologous in great apes and humans,” the study summary published on Cell.com, says. “Findings also show that distinctively human laughter characteristics such as predominantly regular, stable voicing and consistently egressive airflow are nonetheless traceable to characteristics of shared ancestors with great apes.”
In other words, primates have most likely been sharing laughs since long before humans were able to devise funny tricks to elicit them.