Do animals get drunk?

Let’s face it, people like to drink. And a lot of the time, we like to drink to excess. As best we can tell, this has been a part of human civilization since time immemorial. Archaeologists have found wine jars in China dating to 7000 BC, and the Egyptians were brewing beer over 5,000 years ago. But are humans the only species that likes to get a little buzz from time to time? As it turns out, we’re not. Far from it in fact.

While not native to the Caribbean, the vervet monkey was introduced to the area in the 17th and 18th century during the height of the rum industry. First known to eat fermented sugar cane, these monkey cousins of ours have since become notorious drink thieves with a tendency to snag the cocktails of unsuspecting tourists. Just like people, young monkeys are known to drink heavier than their adult counterparts, and just like people, the monkeys enjoy a drink more in the evening than other parts of the day. It must be a hard life for a monkey living in tropical paradise…

Drunk humans have enough problems getting around, and we’ve got our feet right on the ground. So imagine how difficult it must be to get around flying in the air! Such is an annual issue for the Bohemian Waxwing. These little birds are big rowan tree berry fans, and when the year starts to get into fall, those berries have a tendency to start fermenting. While most of the waxwings will stop after a little buzz, others seem to have a harder time stopping, resulting in them passed out on the ground...or sadly, sometimes fatally flying into buildings.

Other species are even tougher on those that fly under the influence. Everyone knows that nectar is a primary food source for bees. Sometimes that nectar can ferment, leading to drunken bees. Some of these poor drunks are unable to find their way home, and end up seemingly flying off at random. For others who do make it back home, the greeting can be...unfriendly, as some hives will attack the returning drunk. Just imagine stumbling home drunk only to be greeted by your family attacking you and throwing you out the door!

Other animals do a bit better. Bats have been shown to travel just fine, even when intoxicated up to around the point of the legal limit for a human. But nothing compares to the Malaysian tree shrew. These little mouse sized critters drink every single night, consuming the equivalent of about 9 to 10 glasses of wine...and as best we can tell, it has no effect on them, as the shrews show zero sign of intoxication. Lucky little buggers almost certainly don’t get hangovers either!

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