Tool Making

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Chimpanzees make and use tools in a variety of ways. Their toolmaking can also vary based on habitat and location.
25.4.1StudyCorner termiting.jpg
The typical objects turned into tools at Gombe National Park include stems, twigs, branches, leaves and rocks. Chimpanzees use these objects for many purposes, including feeding, drinking, and cleaning themselves. Sometimes they even use these objects as weapons. In other habitats and in other areas of their range, researchers have observed chimpanzees using and making tools in differing ways. For example, the chimpanzees of Tai National Park in Cote d’Ivoire crack open nuts with rocks while there is no record of the Gombe chimpanzees using rocks in this manner.

First Observation

Jane Goodall first observed a chimpanzee, David Greybeard, using a tool in November of 1960. She watched from a distance as David poked pieces of grass into a termite mound and then raised the grass to his mouth. After he left, Goodall approached the mound and repeated the behavior because she was not sure what David was doing. She found that the termites bit onto the grass with their jaws. David had been using the grass as a tool to “fish” for termites!

Termite Fishing Video

Man the Toolmaker

Soon after Goodall's initial discovery of tool use, she observed David and other chimpanzees picking up leafy twigs, stripping off the leaves, and using the stems to fish for insects. This change of a leafy twig into a tool was a major discovery. Before this, scientists thought that only humans made and used tools, and that this ability was what separated humans from other animals. This discovery caused famed anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey to write this famous line in a telegram to Goodall: "Now we must redefine tool, redefine man or accept chimpanzees as human."