Honey Hunting Chimps in Congo
Chimps are humans’ closest relatives and we share around 98% of our DNA with them. So it’s no surprise that they make and use tools to great effect, with techniques and tools varying from troupe to troupe. In Uganda, for example, the Sonso community in the Budongo Forest collects leaves to mop up honey, and in the Ivory Coast and Gabon the chimps use fabricated dipping sticks.
The chimps living in the Goualougo Triangle in the Republic of Congo, however, have a unique behaviour, not seen anywhere else in the world. These chimps climb up to bees’ nest, in which the bees busily manufacture honey and store it in tiny wax pots which stand alongside thousands of carefully nurtured egg capsules. The capsules are joined together with struts like a molecular model in a science laboratory and prove very tempting for the chimps. They have learnt to use a club to smash the nests, tear away the loosened bark, before reaching the honey using a long stick that they have taken the twigs off, and cracked the stave on the edge of a buttress root, leaving a long but stout branch to reach the rest of the honey. It’s a skill that has to be taught by older members of the troupe to the younger ones – if they start to learn too late, it’s a skill they never acquire.