Earlier this year, scientists at Harvard University found that chimps have the cognitive ability, patience and foresight to cook food. Now a group of researchers has revealed that these animals are smart enough to use tools with specific purposes in mind. Jan van Hooff and Bas Lukkenaar studied the footage of a chimp that took down a camera-drone with a tree branch at a Dutch zoo, and analyzed the animal’s behavior.
The attack was planned and deliberate
According to findings of the study published in the journal Primates, the chimp fully planned the attack, just like a human would. On April 10, a Dutch TV crew was filming chimps at the Royal Burgers Zoo for a documentary. The camera-drone had already caught the attention of chimpanzees during the practice run. When the drone approached, some of the chimps grabbed twigs or branches from willow trees.
Two females, Tushi and Raime, climbed up the scaffolding where the drone was hovering. Tushi hit at the drone twice with a branch in her left hand. The second attack knocked the drone down to the ground. The camera continued to capture the footage as the animals cautiously inspected and toyed with the gadget before losing interest in it.
Chimps choose size and shape of tools for a particular use
Tushi bared her teeth before and during the strike, but she showed no sign of fear. It indicates that the actions were “deliberate” rather than a reflex response. Tushi and Raime picked the sticks before the drone approached, and climbed to a place from where they could hit the drone. The sequence of events shows that chimpanzees “engage in forward planning of tool-use acts,” said scientists.
This kind of behavior is not frequently seen among these chimps. Lukkenaar and van Hooff said the chimps at the Royal Burgers Zoo had never been taught how to use different tools. Past studies have showed that chimps at the same zoo innovatively and spontaneously use 13 types of tools in different ways. They choose shape, size, and weight of the tools with a specific use in mind.
For instance, they would choose stones or heavy pieces of wood for throwing weapons, while sticks are mostly used to collect fresh leaves from overhead branches.