New insights into chimpanzees, tools, and termites from the Congo basin

November 09, 2004

Chimpanzees are renowned for their complex tool using behaviors and wide array of tool assemblages. However, the tool using repertoire of these apes in central Africa's Congo Basin has remained an enigma, based mainly on indirect evidence and fleeting observations. In this study, a new type of remote video technology was used to study chimpanzee behavior at termite nests in the Goualougo Triangle, Republic of Congo. From six-months of remote video surveillance at termite nests, we provide the first descriptions of the form and function of two distinct tool sets used by chimpanzees in preying upon termites in central Africa. They differ from technologies observed in other parts of their range. Chimpanzees regularly visit two forms of termite nests and used specific tool sets to extract their insect prey depending on the structure of the nest. These interesting additions to the diversity of chimpanzee material culture have broad implications for our understanding of the ecological and cultural factors that shape hominoid tool use. Although decades of long-term studies have been dedicated to this species in other parts of Africa, these chimpanzees of the Congo Basin have shown us that there is still much to learn about the behavior of these apes.
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University of Chicago Press Journals

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