What chimps understand about keeping secrets that Donald Trump doesn't.

Recently, we learned that President Trump is not very good at keeping secrets.

According to a bombshell Washington Post report, in the course of bragging about how cool his job is, the president revealed highly classified "code word" intelligence to Russian officials visiting the White House.

Oops. Photo by Michael Reynols-Pool/Getty Images.


Most people would know not to do this.

In fact, you probably wouldn't even need to be a person in the White House to keep America's national security secrets safe. A reasonably competent nonverbal mammal could probably pull it off — and an animal president would come with a lot of advantages. No Twitter! No press conferences! We could pay them in food!

But which animal?

I wanted answers. More importantly, I wanted a Plan B for America.

Is there an animal that would be better at keeping secrets than the current president of the United States? And how quickly could John Roberts make that animal swear on a Bible?

The surprising, I-kid-you-not, possible secret-keeping savior species? Chimpanzees.

Photo by Guillame Souvant/Getty Images.

According to a 2015 study, chimpanzees can actually determine who it's important to hide information from.

Researcher Katja Karg of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, discovered that the great apes are able to identify individuals seeking to do them harm, and they are cautious enough to conceal information from them accordingly.

"Chimpanzees understand others' intentions, and they can adjust their behaviour to these intentions by flexibly manipulating what they make visible to others," lead researcher Karg told the BBC in 2015.

Researchers exposed 24 chimps to competitive humans, who would steal food from their cages, and cooperative humans, who would pick it up and feed it to them.

They discovered the chimps were more likely to keep food hidden in the presence of competitors and not say, for example, "Hey, we've got great food. The best food. The most delicious chocolate cake you've ever seen. Let me show you exactly where it is."

The experiment concluded that the chimps are able to selectively, intentionally deceive — and not just because they don't talk.

The key to chimpanzees' ability to keep secrets? They are able to distinguish between friend and foe on a very basic level.

Like, for example, the difference between the leader of an allied and long-term partner nation...

Photo by Saul Loeb/Getty Images.

...and a couple of guys who (probably) lied about the reason they brought cameras into your office.

Russian Foreign Ministry. Photo via AP.

Once the chimps make the distinction between friend and foe, they are able to adjust their strategy — hiding resources from individuals out to get them, while sharing with those who are friendly.

You know.

Basic stuff.

Which raises the question: Is it time to oust Trump and install a great ape in the Oval Office?

Not so fast, it turns out.

"They are not very good at [keeping secrets]," Karg told the BBC, of her chimps' performance in the experiment. "You can help them by giving them some way to distract themselves."

In some ways, perhaps they're not so different from our current president after all.

That said, what would be the harm in giving Mr. Bananas a few weeks to call the shots?

Photo by Andreas Solaro/Getty Images.

Could things really get any weirder than they already are?

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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