Gorillas Test Water Depth With Sticks
If you needed to cross a body of water, what’s the first thing you would do? If you’re not a skilled swimmer, chances are you’d want to check how deep the water is before jumping in. A chance encounter in the forests of the Republic of Congo suggests that gorillas might do the same. A research team from the New York City-based Wildlife Conservation Society noticed a gorilla using sticks to test the depth of the natural pool before wading in. That marked the first time a gorilla was observed using a water stick, or any tool, in the wild. The researchers who witnessed the extraordinary event were amazed by how cautious and “intuitive” the gorilla’s actions were. “What’s fascinating…is the similarity between what these creatures have done and what we do in the context of crossing a pond,” said Dr. Thoma Breuer, the lead researcher on the team who captured an image of the tool use in action. Like humans, gorillas are not natural swimmers, although they have been taught to swim in captivity.