Is “Planet of the Apes” finally becoming a reality? Two events this week involving chimpanzees may cause you to think twice about making faces at the apes on your next zoo trip – at least at the female ones. Researchers in Senegal have observed female chimps making spears and say they are better at it than the males. And at a zoo in the Netherlands, a female chimp annoyed by a filmmaker’s drone knocked it out of the sky with a stick and helped her family demolish it.
In eastern Senegal, the Fongoli chimps, named for stream that runs through their savannah, have been know to chew on the ends of tree branches and use them to catch and kill bushbabies – small primates – for food. According to an article in the current edition of journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers there have now found that females use the spears more often than males and are better at it.
According to study author Jill Pruetz, professor in the Department of Anthropology at Iowa State University, this may be because males rely on their strength while females must hunt while carrying babies. Pruetz believes this reveals something intersting.
In a number of primate species, females are the innovators and more frequent tool users, so I think it is possible that a female invented this technique.
Another smart female chimp using a stick managed to hit a flying drone and knock it to the ground where she and her fellow chimps turned it into an expensive toy. It happened at the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem in the Netherlands. A 23-year-old female named Pushi became annoyed by a drone filming for the national television program Burgers’ Zoo Natuurlijk, so she whacked it down to her friends and helped them destroy it.
Bas Lukkenaar, a spokesman for the Royal Burgers' Zoo, had this to say about Pushi.
Like human beings some of the chimpanzees are really individuals with their own character. Some are good at throwing and others only produce poor shots and Pushi is a very clever and capable chimpanzee.
Zookeepers are hoping the Fongoli chimps don’t teach others about spear-making and drone makers hope Pushi doesn’t show humans how easy it is to knock them out.