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Is the Taliban really training monkeys to shoot at US troops?

A report in China's People's Daily indicated that the Taliban is creating an army of monkey mujahideen. The report is almost certainly false, a distinguished primatologist says.

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A report in China's People's Daily suggested that that the Taliban is training macaques and baboons to shoot at US troops. It's highly implausible, says an expert.

Illustration by Jake Turcotte

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A bizarre report of Taliban insurgents training monkeys and baboons to shoot at U.S. and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan seems unrealistic at best, according to an expert.

The story that appeared this month in the Chinese People's Daily suggested that insurgents used a reward-and-punishment system to train macaques and baboons to target soldiers wearing U.S. military uniforms. The Taliban supposedly "taught monkeys how to use the Kalashnikov, Bren light machine gun and trench mortars," the People's Daily wrote. [Top 10 Animal Recruits of War]

But a researcher who has spent his career studying the social life of nonhuman primates cast a highly critical eye on the story.

"They can be trained to do things like turn off lights and open faucets and so on, but eventually that breaks down," said William Mason, a psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis. "If we're talking about animals going out into the field or a fortress with an AK-47 or whatever, it seems very, very implausible."

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