Fu Manchu Was a Lock-Picking Orangutan in Nebraska

Fu Manchu was known as a sweet, friendly, playful orangutan who loved to interact with other animals and zookeepers at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, but something odd started to happen in 1968. When the keepers arrived at the zoo, they would often find Fu Manchu and four of his enclosure-mates outside their enclosure. The group never caused trouble or tried to leave the zoo grounds; they just wanted to get out of their enclosure and hang out in other parts of the zoo. Their favorite spot was the elm trees near the elephant enclosure. Zookeepers initially believed that one of the staff had been careless and left the door unlocked, but after it happened several more times, the head zookeeper was ready to fire the staff member responsible. One day, a keeper noticed some unexpected movement in the dry moat surrounding the orangutans’ area. It turned out that none of the keepers had been negligent; it was just that Fu Manchu was incredibly intelligent. He had been picking the lock to the enclosure using a piece of wire he had picked up somewhere, and to hide it he would tuck it between his lip and gums. Then, when he and his pals wanted to take a little evening excursion, he simply took out the wire and picked the enclosure lock. Orangutans are known for being extremely intelligent and for using simple tools for various tasks. Although his lock-picking days were over, Fu Manchu remained a happy, friendly guy who went on to have 20 children and 15 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, before passing away in 1992.