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Tool-Set for Termite-Fishing By Chimpanzees in the Ndoki Forest, Congo

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Observations strongly indicate chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) of the Ndoki forest use two types of tools, 'perforating sticks' and 'fishing probes' in combination for termite (Macrotermes muelleri) fishing. Perforating sticks were always made of small, stout branches or young saplings of Thomandersia laurifolia (Acanthaceae), about 10 mm in diameter, with lengths of about 50 cm. Fishing probes were made from the flexible stems of Marantaceae species, and were about five mm in diameter, with lengths of about 50 cm. Approximately 15 cm of one end of the tool was usually shaped into a brush. It is likely that chimpanzees make small holes in the termite mound wall to attain access into the termite nest inside, then they insert the probe into the holes and eat the major and minor soldier termites which bite the brush-like end. Of 214 chimpanzee feces collected, 50% contained termite remains of this species, and this fecal analysis shows that termite-eating behavior occurred all the year around, and did not correspond to the seasonality of rainfall or termite activity on the ground. Chimpanzees in the Ndoki forest seem to be able to obtain termitcs from the deep subterranean nest throughout the year by using their tool-set. Such a tool-set might be responsible for the higher frequency of termite-eating in Ndoki chimpanzees than those of chimpanzees in other sites who fish for termites using only probes. This newly described behavior shows that chimpanzees habitually manipulate a tool on an object which they previously modified with another type of tool.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto, Japan 606


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