Orangutans use water as a tool
July 6, 2007
German researchers have observed orangutans using water as a tool.
Natacha Mendes, Daniel Hanus, and Josep Call of the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany conducted an experiment with five orangutans to see whether the red apes could access an out-of-reach peanut floating inside a vertical transparent tube. They quickly found that all five orangutans were able to do so by collecting water from a drinker and spitting it into the tube to raise the water level and gain access to the peanut.
Young orangutan in Borneo. Photo by Rhett Butler
The researchers report that all five orangutans figured out the strategy during the first trial and employed the solution– faster–in subsequent trials.
“Additional control conditions suggested that this response was not due to the mere presence of the tube, to the existence
of water inside, or frustration at not getting the reward,” wrote the researchers. “The sudden acquisition of the behaviour, the timing of the actions and the differences with the control conditions make this behaviour a likely candidate for insightful problem solving.”
The research, titled “Raising the level: orangutans use water as a tool”, is published in the current issue of Biology Letters