May 30, 2024

I was only 10 years old when I visited the magical continent of Africa and so I don’t remember the various kinds of beautiful animals I saw in safaris, the hypnotic places I visited and the fun activities I did during my travels in detail except for one instance that left me baffled and intrigued.

During a trek through the forest, a chimpanzee, sitting on a tree illuminated by a beam of sunlight piercing through the dense canopy, caught my attention. The chimpanzee was peering down a hollow tree trunk, I guess, wondering what delicacies are hiding deep inside. The chimp had an amazing trick that would help him find out. The chimp broke a branch and stripped of the twigs using his mouth and hands and fashioned the stick into, what to me looked like, a spear. The chimp then did something that astonished me, he inserted the spear in the hollow bark and probed the insides. This chimp had taken hunting to the next level. After some time the chimp removes the spear and checks the pointed end for blood. Finding none, the chimp tries again. Eventually, the chimp finds a Galago hiding in the bark and devours it.

For years, people have had the belief that the main distinguishing difference between humans and other animals is that humans are the only living beings that possess the ability to use tools, a device used to carry out a particular function like a spoon to eat. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The legendary primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall was the first person to spot chimpanzees using twigs as tools and sticking them into termite mounds to collect insects and making use of stone hammers and passing this knowledge from one generation to another.

Tools used by animals in nature can be simple like a Galapagos finch uses cactus spines to pick insects, a wasp uses a pebble as a hammer and shrike impales its prey on a sharp thorn. But some animals are very sophisticated in their tool use, taking steps to manufacture objects to improve their effectiveness. But which species are the masters of this extraordinary craft?

Here are the top 10 animals, according to me, who use tools.

10. Alligators

Alligators gather sticks on their heads during bird nesting season when there is a huge competition for nesting materials. The alligators use these sticks to lure the desperate unwary birds.

9. Octopuses

The veined octopus uses coconut shells as a portable armour and also uses the shells as a shelter when needed.

8. Sea Otters

Sea otters are one of the only known two tool-using marine mammals. Otters use stones to hammer abalone shells stuck to the rock and then use them to crack them open. Moreover they re the cutest animals in the world . I don’t know what it is about them but when I see them floating together, I just melt inside. They need a whole new blog post.

7. Dolphins

Dolphins, the brainiacs of the sea, are the other tool-using marine mammals. The bottlenose dolphins use marine sponges when searching for prey on the ocean floor. Theses dolphins carry sponges in their beaks which protects them from painful injuries caused by sharp stones and crustaceans on the ocean floor while uncovering prey.

6. Elephants

Elephants have brains larger than those of any other land animal and so are one of the most intelligent animals in the world. Elephants intentionally drop logs or rocks on electric fences to short them out and plug up water holes with balls of chewed bark to keep other animals from drinking them away. Additionally, Asian elephants are even known to systematically modify branches to swat at flies and using branches as scratchers.

5. Parrots

Although parrots haven’t been seen use tools in the wild, they are ranked 5th in my list because of their tool-using capabilities observed in captivity. A captive Goffin’s cockatoo called Figaro, in 2012, shocked researchers when the cockatoo bit off a piece of wood to create a makeshift lever and used it to reach a cashew nut on the other side of the metal fence.

4. Chimpanzees

An article can be written about tool usage by all primates. Chimpanzees and all other primates make use of tools for hunting and grooming. One instance, seen below, is a chimp using a twig and sticking it into a termite mound to hunt for and collect insects.

3. Gorillas

A female gorilla named Leah was seen in the wild using a meter-long stick as a measuring tool. She held it vertically in front of her to test the depth of the river she wanted to cross. Using this measuring tool, she led her family safely around the bank to the desired foraging spot.

2. Orangutans

Orangutans are the smartest out of all primates. In the wild, they make whistles from bundles of leaves, which they use to help ward off predators. This, apparently, was the first time an animal was seen to use tools in order of communication. Like most primates, orangutans also make use of branches to fashion spears used for hunting. They have also been seen to make an umbrella using leaves.

Before I unveil the master of tools, here are some honourable mentions. Macaques living near a Buddhist shrine in Lopburi, Thailand, pull out hair from visitors and use it as floss to clean their mouths. Researches have also seen great apes, in times of stress and sadness like losing a child, make a doll out of leaves and twigs and treat them as her infant.

1. New Caledonian Crow

These corvids are the most sophisticated tool users. They are known to make more than 20 types of hooks out of leaves and twigs that they use to hunt their prey. They use these hooks to irritate their prey so they bite on the hook and the crows drag them out. This is one of the many techniques used by the crows. Most of the crows get fond of a particular tool and carry them everywhere.

1 thought on “10 Incredible Animals That Use Tools

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