Notice - it's the females who learn the new tricks first......
Chimps Fashion Tools to Hunt Bush Babies
By Rick Weiss
The Washington Post
February 23, 2007
Chimpanzees living in the West African savanna have been observed fashioning deadly spears from sticks and using the handcrafted tools to hunt small mammals--the first routine production of deadly weapons observed in animals other than human beings.
The multistep spearmaking, documented by researchers in Senegal who spent years gaining the chimpanzees' trust, adds credence to the idea that human forebears fashioned similar tools millions of years ago.
The landmark observation also supports the long-debated proposition that females--the main makers and users of spears among the Senegalese chimps--tend to be the innovators and creative problem solvers in primate culture.
Using their hands and teeth, the chimpanzees were repeatedly seen tearing the side branches off long straight sticks, peeling back the bark and sharpening one end, the researchers report in Thursday's online issue of the journal Current Biology. Then, grasping the weapon in a "power grip," they jabbed into tree-branch hollows where bush babies--small monkeylike mammals--sleep. "It was really alarming how forceful it was," said lead researcher Jill Pruetz of Iowa State University in Ames, adding that it reminded her of the murderous shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Psycho." "It was kind of scary."
The new observations are "stunning," said Craig Stanford, a primatologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California. "Really fashioning a weapon to get food--I'd say that's a first for any non-human animal."
While a few chimpanzees have been observed throwing rocks and a few others have been known to swing simple clubs, only people have been known to craft tools expressly to hunt prey.
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