Wild gorilla spotted using pole as a ladder

Mountain gorilla
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A team of researchers working at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's Karisoke Research Center in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda (in association with the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology and the University of Western Australia) is reporting in the journal Behavioural Processes that they have witnessed possible tool use by a mountain gorilla—it used a bamboo pole to serve as a ladder to help its offspring climb into a difficult place. This marks just the third instance of an eyewitness report of a gorilla using tools in the wild.

The famed Karisoke Research Center was established in 1967 by Dian Fossey and has been running ever since. Its mission is to study the and to assist in protecting it from extinction—a dire prediction made by Dr. Lois Leaky in the early 60's after noting the declining population of gorillas due to poaching and loss of habitat. Today, researchers from all over the world come to the center to help study the wild gorillas and to learn from others that work there.

Up until now, there have been only two reports of mountain gorillas using tools in the wide (those in captivity have demonstrated a wide range of tool use). One team of researchers spied an adult pushing a stick around in a muddy part of a river to learn whether there was anything below worth trying to catch. Another team witnessed an adult move a tree-trunk crosswise over a stream then use it as a bridge to cross over.

In this latest report, team members Cyril Gruetera, Martha Robbinsa, Felix Ndagijimanab, and Tara Stoinskib report watching as a an adult female manipulated a bamboo pole to position it for use by one of her offspring, then held onto it to keep it steady as the little one clambered up the pole from the ground to join her in her perch. The team adds that it was clearly intentional as the mother didn't act until she heard distress calls from her infant.

The researchers suggest that unlike chimpanzees, which have been seen using all manner of tools in the wild to gain access to food, gorillas may be more inclined to use tools as a way to deal with the rugged environment in which they live. That suggests researchers may need to look for such use in different ways.


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More information: Behavioural Processes, Volume 100, November 2013, Pages 160–162 DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2013.09.006
Journal information: Behavioural Processes

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Citation: Wild gorilla spotted using pole as a ladder (2013, November 15) retrieved 21 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-11-wild-gorilla-pole-ladder.html
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Nov 15, 2013
I was surprised to read that this was only the 3rd witnessed use of tools by gorillas, compared to chimps who use tools often in the wild. The more I thought about it, though, the 3 cases of gorilla tool use seem more advanced, so to speak. A stick as a sensor probe, a log as a bridge, a bamboo pole as a ladder... The functional nature of these seems more advanced than sticks for hammers, or twigs for pulling out termites.

Nov 15, 2013
many animals use tools.

only humans use tools to make tools.

Nov 15, 2013
If you can use a pole to climb, then weren't they really using a pole as a pole? They didn't construct what we know as a ladder, I presume.

Had the gorilla lashed multiple-spaced transverse pole sections across two longer parallel poles, propped it vertically, and then climbed, then I would certainly agree to a "ladder". I would also be terribly impressed.

What I am waiting to hear is a report of a tool being stashed AFTER use, to be reused later. That would be some indicator of forward thinking.

Nov 16, 2013
The said team of researchers are a tool of a failed Aristotelian ideology, viz: that humans are merely talking beasts. What seperates some of us from all lower forms of life is our productive use of fire (and its modern day successors such as nuclear power.)

Nov 18, 2013
The said team of researchers are a tool of a failed Aristotelian ideology, viz: that humans are merely talking beasts. What seperates some of us from all lower forms of life is our productive use of fire (and its modern day successors such as nuclear power.)


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