A funny letter from New Scientist regarding the use of monkeys to collect specimens in the field, which was pioneered by John Corner in Singapore.
The botanist noticed that local fruit-pickers trained monkeys to collect fruit, and reasoned that a monkey could similarly be trained to collect flowers, leaves and nuts for his own work. The result was the collection of hundreds of otherwise inaccessible specimens — and this gem:
Travelling with mule and monkey on a narrow path in the uplands, he spied a new and unrecognised flower on a liana hanging from the path, down a near-vertical cliff face too steep for him to climb down. So he instructed the monkey to descend and collect the flower. But the monkey just looked at him questioningly with its head on one side.
‘Go down!’ repeated the eminent botanist. At which the monkey gave an eloquent shrug, took hold of the liana and pulled it up hand over hand to collect the flower. No human being, said Corner, had ever, before or since, made him feel so much of a fool.