Keeping Up Appearances

Locked up in a zoo, however nice but with lots of time on your hands, what would you do? Perhaps get up late, have a leisurely breakfast and then spend time making yourself look and feel good as you wait for the admiring hordes to pass by outside your enclosure taking photographs amidst “oohs” and “aahs” as you pose for them.

If you happened to be a full-grown male mandrill from the old country, you would be looking pretty spectacular in with the bright reds and blues along your aristocratic nose. Pride in your appearance would be essential for your showbiz role. Well-groomed hair and clean nails are of course essential. Pansini and de Rilter of the U of Durham report in the current issue of the Journal of Behavioral Processes that the have surreptitiously filmed a mandrill at his toilette and giving himself a pedicure, no less (1).

Not having been issued with a manicure kit, or even a nail clipper and file, he wasn’t going to appear anything less than well groomed. He therefore resorted to taking a twig and thinning it down to enable him to clean from under his toenails that dirt that always accumulates with all the running around performing for the public outside the bars and the females inside.

If they would only give him some decent AstroTurf instead of the bare earth, he wouldn't have this problem, but even if you rank lower than humans and the other great apes, you have to pay attention to personal hygiene even if you have to make the tools yourself.

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