TOOL USE AND TOOL MAKING

Chimpanzees make and use a wide and diverse set of tools and, with the exception of humans, are the only living primates to consistently and habitually create and utilize tools. Different communities of chimpanzees have unique tool use behaviors with tools serving several purposes including extracting items, probing, body cleaning, pounding, and for displaying. Research shows approximately  50% of tools employed by wild chimpanzees are used in relation to feeding, with the other 50% split between aggressive exchanges against other chimpanzees or other species (including leopards, snakes and even humans), for communication, inspection of the environment and cleaning themselves.

Cracking is probably the most sophisticated activity using tools by chimpanzees and has only been observed among the West African subspecies, despite the fact that nut-bearing tree species are available in many habitats where chimpanzees live and have been studied in Central and East Africa. Tool use in chimpanzees has been shown to play an important role in survival, enabling them to access food resources otherwise difficult to acquire. Some specific tool uses recorded include the use of wands to dip for driver ants, sticks to dig up underground insect nests, and probes to fish for termites from their mounds.

Studies of chimpanzees in different regions of Africa have revealed that chimpanzee exhibit different tool use behaviors and may use different tools for the same purpose at different sites. Nut cracking behavior is pervasive only in a very small area within the evergreen forest perimeter of West Africa. Chimpanzees clearly demonstrate the ability to fashion tools adapted for a specific purpose or task and demonstrate variability across sites in their use of raw materials to manufacture tools. Not all regional and local variation can be explained by the demands of the physical and biotic environments – it has been suggested that these variations may also represent cultures in different communities.

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