Video: Chimps destroy documentary drone with twig tools

Move over, King Kong. A chimpanzee named Tushi is putting up some regal resistance at the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands. That’s where she knocked a filmmaker’s drone clear out of the sky in April using a 1.8-meter-long stick. Researchers report online today in the journal Primates that this is strong evidence of planned, deliberate tool use among chimps, adding to evidence that these primates can think ahead and be creative in their toolmaking. A Dutch TV crew had set out to make a public relations documentary of the troop—part of several groundbreaking studies since it formed in 1971—and tried to use a drone to capture close-ups and overhead shots of Tushi and the other chimps. The filmmakers first tested their drone without a camera, arousing the interest of the troop. Four chimps—including Tushi—climbed several meters up the scaffolding in their enclosure. Tushi and another female carried willow switches. When the drone returned, this time with a camera, Tushi used hers to swat it out of the sky. Still filming, the drone tumbled to the ground, where it was examined by other members of the troop. Researchers say it’s not clear whether Tushi was annoyed by the drone or only curious—they say her facial expression suggests she wasn’t particularly afraid. But the footage is evidence that her actions were planned and deliberate, and it shows just how resourceful chimps can be at using whatever materials are available as tools. 

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