Chimps use spears, scientist finds


Feb 22, 2007

Chimpanzees in Senegal are regularly making and using spears to hunt other primates without human assistance, according to a research report prepared by Iowa State Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani, a graduate student from the University of Cambridge in England.

The study, funded by the National Geographic Society, is the first to report habitual tool use by nonhumans while hunting other vertebrates.

The pair documented 22 cases of the chimps near Fongoli, Senegal, using tools--in this case sticks--to hunt smaller primates in cavities of hollow branches or tree trunks.

Only 2 of the 22 reported cases were seen as playful--in the case of an infant male--or exploratory in nature. In the rest of the cases, the chimps were using enough force to indicate that they were on an expedition for something. The chimps jab the stick in there and then lick it when it comes out. In one of the cases, the chimps extracted a bushbaby, a nocturnal primate.

Interestingly, the researchers found women hunted with the tools more than the men, an indication that females may play a significant role in crafting tools and tool discovery.

"The combination of hunting and tool use at Fongoli, behaviors long considered hallmarks of our own species, makes the population especially intriguing," they wrote.

Recently, the University of Calgary posted a study indicating ancient chimps employed sharpened rocks as hammers (

The unanswered question, of course, is what does Dr. Zaius think? Didn't he say "Ape must not kill Ape ("? Did this take place in the Forbidden Zone? I think someone owes Charlton Heston an apology.