Do Animals Vote Like Humans Do?

Do Animals Vote Like Humans Do?


It's election day in the United States and many people will go out and cast their ballot to vote for candidates, clauses and laws.

Did you know that animals regularly make group decisions that directly affect their everyday lives? But without the convenience of machines or ballots like us humans, how do they vote?

Take a look at the Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana), a group of fruit-loving monkeys that live in the forests of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The forests these monkeys dwell in are full of fruit trees, which grow randomly in the forest. When in search for which direction to go in for their beloved fruit, they make a choice by majority vote.

When a particular Tonkean macaque wishes to move the group, he or she walks a few steps in the desired direction, pauses, and then turns his or her head back towards the rest of the group. This tells the group they should move to a new food patch. The remaining monkeys then decide whether to support the direction that was suggested, or whether to offer an alternative. If an alternate direction is proposed, each group member votes by joining with his or her chosen candidate. Just like the leader did, they walk a few steps, pause, and then turn their heads back to inspect the rest of the group.

Once the majority of the group has voted, the remaining undecided voters simply side with the majority, walking along but not turning back to monitor the others. Those who opted for the losing recommendation simply turn to catch up to the group.

Like other primates, these monkeys maintain a strict social hierarchy, but all group members vote when it comes to these sorts of decisions. And what feels most democratic is that any individual may act as initiator, regardless of age, sex, or hierarchical status. 

Because in the end, on the inside...we are all the same.