Ayla the capuchin monkey must be pretty smart: She goes to Monkey College! Along with 24 other monkeys, Ayla lives at a school that trains capuchins to assist disabled people who can’t use their hands. At the college, monkeys learn to help answer phones, change TV channels, load CDs, spoon-feed their human partners, and even scratch their itches. “They do everyday tasks that humans would use their hands for,” says Judi Zazula, executive director of Helping Hands Monkey College.
After one to two years of training, graduates are placed with disabled people, who direct the monkeys to their tasks with a mouth-operated laser pointer attached to the wheelchair. Although many monkeys particularly enjoy jobs that involve pushing buttons, such as operating a computer, Ayla prefers turning book pages. She also likes to eat. Sometimes she opens the refrigerator, sneaks out a treat, and stashes it under a blanket for later!