Could it possibly be true that the Taliban are training monkeys to fire heavy weapons at U.S. troops in Afghanistan?
The Rumor Doctor had to investigate this case of primal fear after the Chinese People’s Daily reported this week that “monkey terrorists” are being trained by the Taliban in Waziristan, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
The newspaper also claimed that reporters from an unnamed British news agency took photographs of the “monkey soldiers” holding AK-47s and other weapons.The primates are supposedly meant to counter U.S. military technological advantages in Afghanistan.
“In response, the Taliban forces have tried any possible means and figured out a method to train monkeys as ‘replacement killers’ against American troops,” according to the newspaper.
The Rumor Doctor asked NATO officials whether these killer monkeys have yet been encountered on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
“We have absolutely nothing that leads us to believe that this tale could be even remotely based in reality,” said NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.
When asked if the Chinese government thought the People’s Daily Online story is true, Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong did not answer directly.
"I took note of the fact that the People's Daily's story was based on a recent report by a British-based media agency,” Baodong said in an e-mail. “What I want to stress is that the Chinese government is opposed to terrorism of any forms, and this stand is consistent and clear.”
One primate expert raised doubts about the authenticity of the photos used to illustrate the People’s Daily story online, which showed an unidentified primate with a menacing grin and a belt-fed machine gun.
“To my eye at least, it is a baboon, which lives in Africa,” said Christopher Coe, director of the Harlow Primate Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.“The more common monkey that lives in that part of the world is a rhesus monkey. They live in India and can also be found in China. But this photo is not [of] a rhesus monkey.”
Coe has heard rumors of monkeys being trained to run into enemy trenches carrying grenades when India and Pakistan were at war, but those claims have not been proven.
“While you could train a monkey to shoot a gun, I certainly wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the neighborhood after that. I rather doubt you could trust its aim,” he said. “In addition, the noise would certainly scare most animals and make them stop.”
Coe mentioned that monkeys and apes have been trained to play video games, including “Space Invaders”
“But in all cases, they are trained and reinforced by giving them food treats,” he said. “So the Taliban would definitely have to bring along a large supply of bananas to keep up the morale of their monkey troops.”
To be fair, the Doctor wanted to contact the Taliban press office, but he couldn’t find a phone number or e-mail address.
If any Taliban reading this would like to comment, please send The Doctor your coordinates.
THE RUMOR DOCTOR’S DIAGNOSIS: No need to clone Charlton Heston to take on those damn dirty apes — for now, at least.
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