6 Remarkable Ways Chimpanzees Use Tools

Chimpanzees have more things in common than you might think. Just like us, they use tools for many reasons, from staying dry to hunting termites.

Dec 3, 2023byColt Dodd
remarkable ways chimpanzees use tools

Chimpanzees are the ultimate DIY masters of the animal kingdom. These smart primates aren’t just proficient at using tools; they’re also innovative, customizing the tools according to their needs. These apes use tools for a variety of purposes, from getting meals to cleaning their teeth. Let’s take a deep dive together.

Chimps Use Sticks for “Termite Fishing”

chimp termite mound
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Termite fishing is one of the most iconic examples of chimpanzee tool use. But what is this?

Imagine a chimp sitting before a giant termite mound. Eating each termite would take hours. So to streamline the process, these primates have discovered a workaround. They start by locating the termites’ entry point, then inserting a stick inside. As the termites attempt to defend their mound by attacking the invading stick, the chimp simply withdraws it, revealing a stick covered with a nutritious and delicious meal.

Termite fishing is more than a chimp using a stick to find food; it shows cognitive foresight, planning, and other traits of sophisticated creatures. Reasons like these are why chimps are one of the most intelligent creatures in the Animal Kingdom. It’s also not hard to see why chimpanzees are our closest relatives.

These Apes Crush Nuts with Rocks

chimp on hill
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chimpanzees survive on a balanced diet of fruit, nuts, and the occasional small animal. However, they don’t have forks and knives; they must rely on other methods to divide and conquer their food. So, to open nuts, they smash them open with rocks.

The activity requires precision, strength, and an understanding of the correct angle and force. Young chimps learn this complex behavior by watching adults, reflecting the importance of social learning in their communities.

Apes Use Leaves as Sponges or Spoons

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Deep water is a chimpanzee’s worst enemy. While some apes can learn to swim, dive, and navigate deep waters, most prefer to stay in the shallow end. To avoid drowning (or being eaten by a hungry crocodile), chimps use leaves to capture rainwater and drink.

Some have even been observed using leaves as sponges! Here, a chimp will take a leaf, crumple it in their mouth, then dip it into the water. The leaf then soaks up the liquid like a sponge would. Finally, they suck the water out from the leaf.

Chimpanzees will usually rely on thick, dark leaves that don’t fall apart easily. When it comes to trees and plants, chimps really don’t have a preference over which leaves to use; they use whatever is readily available.

Chimps Also Use Leaves as Protection From Rain

chimp on all fours
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some animals (like frogs and ducks) love rain. The same cannot be said for chimps. Just like their human relatives, chimps don’t like getting drenched in a sudden rainstorm. What’s more, they can’t just pull out an umbrella or don a raincoat either.

So, when it rains, they utilize large, broad leaves or leafy branches, holding them overhead as umbrellas! This not only shields them from the rain but also allows them to continue their activities without becoming soaked. These activities usually include grooming, socializing, or just relaxing.

Chimps don’t just use leaves as umbrellas, however. They also use them as parasols when it gets too hot outside––a great way to avoid sunburns!

Chimps Rely on Communication Tools

chimp in forest
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the complex social world of chimpanzees, tools also play a role in communication. For instance, chimps often engage in “drumming” sequences where they use sticks to drum against tree buttresses or roots, producing a series of loud, resonating sounds that vibrate through their forest home.

This drumming behavior is thought to serve various communication purposes, from signaling their presence to asserting dominance within the group. It may also be an attempt at long-distance communication to neighboring troops.

In a more aggressive display, chimps have been observed throwing rocks or banging them against tree trunks to create loud noises and warn off potential threats. While they aren’t aggressive like some animals (like crocodiles or snakes), these weapons can make chimps dangerous.

Chimps Use Tools for Personal Hygiene

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

At one point of another, everyone’s heard of an angry chimp throwing poop at perceived threats. This founds the misconception that chimps are dirty animals. But that’s simply not the case. Just like humans, they partake in various grooming rituals to limit the spread of disease (and just to look nice).

Chimpanzees often use sticks or grass stems as toothpicks to dislodge food stuck between their teeth. Beyond this, chimps display remarkable cleanliness by using leaves as “napkins.” This demonstrates that chimps, like humans, use tools not only for food acquisition purposes but also for cleanliness and personal care.

Chimps Aren’t the Only Animals That Use Tools

monkey using rock
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chimps aren’t the only animals that have come to rely on tools for various purposes. Other tool-using animals include:

  • Vultures. Vultures have been observed using rocks to crush eggs. They also pluck wool from sheep to insulate their nests.
  • Owls. Owls will sometimes collect mammal poop and use it as bait to collect certain insects, like dung beetles and certain species of flies.
  • Gulls. Some seagulls will steal food from humans, then drop it on the water’s surface. Then, when the fish gather, they chow down.

Humans and animals really aren’t so different after all. Both have come to rely on tools to make their lives easier. Who would’ve guessed that problem-solving would be the thing to unite us!


Colt Dodd
byColt Dodd

Colt Dodd is a sighthound enthusiast with three years of freelance writing experience. He has an Italian greyhound/Shetland sheepdog mix named Homer. In his spare time, he enjoys going to dog parks and writing fiction.