Chimpanzees that travel are more likely to use tools

Chimps in Kibale National ParkAndrew BernardThree chimps engaging with the honey hole experiment in Kibale National Park.

Travelling can be an eye-opening experience for chimpanzees, forcing them to become more innovative.

According to a
study published Tuesday in the journal eLife, well-travelled chimpanzees are more inventive when it comes to devising tools to get access to food.

This is believed to be because travel creates a need for more high-energy food, which in turn forces chimpanzees to improvise new ways to collect it.

The scientists arrived at these findings by analysing 7 years of field experiments where 52 chimpanzees had to try to get honey from a hole in a wooden log. The limited amount of honey in the hole made it necessary for chimpanzees to use a tool, like a folded leaf or a stick, to get it out. The primates that only used their fingers to get to the honey didn’t have much success.

The researchers found that the primates that interacted with the log and used tools to get to the honey were generally those that had travelled more than average in the previous weeks and those that had eaten fewer ripe fruits. Those that were better-fed and less well-travelled didn’t seem as motivated to get to the honey.

In other words, the well-travelled primates had a more genuine and immediate need to replenish their energy, so they improvised tools to get to the delicious honey.

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