Other mammals that use tools

By Mike Richey - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

We tend to think that only humans use tools. However, that is just a way to make ourselves feel better than the rest of the animal world. Even in our own class of mammals, there are quite a few that use tools to get food. Let look at a few prominent ones.


The Chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest ape relatives, use sticks to pry into a termite’s nest and pull out grubs. They are also known to use rocks to crack hard nuts. Of course, stones also make good weapons to hurl at rival group too.

Some chimpanzees use spear like tools that they sharpen with their own teeth to hunt for smaller mammals like bushbabies. Chimpanzees also use sticks and stones to get at honey, staying farther away so as not to be bitten.

Gorillas also use sticks to gauge the depth of a stream and also to threaten each other. They are not seen using a lot of tools because their diet is more vegetarians than Chimps and their mountainous and forest habitat provides for plenty.

Orangutans use tools very well too. They use sticks to get at termites and leafy branches to scratch and even boats to move about when they can.

We have also seen brown tufted capuchins use a rock and an anvil to crack large and nutritious nuts. They acquire this skill observing the adults forage and it takes years for them to perfect it. In the brazilian forests where they live, it gives them a decided advantage to possess this skill.


In the wild mandrills have been seen using sharpened sticks to clean their ears and nails. Crab-eating macaques have also been observed using rocks and stones to break open hard shells and get at the tasty meat.


These are some of the most innovative of tool users. They need a lot of water and so use their tusks a lot to dig for ground water. They also use their branches to swat flies. Some elephants have also been seen destroying an electric fence using their tusks because the teeth don’t conduct electricity. Elephants are also know to cover up watering holes with wooden plugs so that they can be re-used and the water is also prevented from evaporating.



One wonders how they would get any tools to use in the open sea and how would they use them? I mean, it isn’t easy to hold anything with flippers. However, they do forage on the seafloor looking for fish that dig in there for protection. Dolphins carry conch shells or sponges on their snout to scare or ferret the fish out.

Sea Otters are very prolific tool users. They carry molluscs and shell fish up to the surface and using two stones, using one as a hammer and the other as an anvil, break the shells to get at the good gooey stuff inside.



Many other classes of animals use tools very effectively. Birds, bees and ants immediately come to mind. The world is filled with wondrous creatures looking to put their minds to good use. We humans are just learning to appreciate that.

About mammal 73 Articles
I blog about mammals and all the interesting and fun-filled facts about them will be welcome additions to this blog.

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