For the first time ever, scientists have observed and photographed wild gorillas using tools, in one instance employing a stick to test the depth of a pool before wading into it, according to a study by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other organizations. Up to this point, all other species of great apes, including chimpanzees and orangutans, have been observed using tools in the wild, but never gorillas.
“This is a truly astounding discovery,” said Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Tool usage in wild apes provides us with valuable insights into the evolution of our own species and the abilities of other species. Seeing it for the first time in gorillas is important on many different levels.”
According to the study published in the open access journal PLoS Biology, on two separate occasions in the northern rain forests of the Republic of Congo, researchers observed and photographed individual western gorillas using sticks as tools. The observations were made in Mbeli Bai—a swampy clearing located in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park where monitoring has been ongoing since February 1995. The first instance occurred when a female gorilla nicknamed Leah by scientists attempted to wade through a pool of water created by elephants, but found herself waist deep after only a few steps. Climbing out of the pool, Leah then retrieved a straight branch from a nearby dead tree and used it to test the depth of the water. Keeping her upper body above water, she moved some 10 meters out into the pool before returning to shore and her wailing infant.
Paul Ocampo | alfa
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