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Are West Africa's Chimps Arming Themselves?

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Are West Africa's Chimps Arming Themselves?

Research News

Are West Africa's Chimps Arming Themselves?

Are West Africa's Chimps Arming Themselves?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/7584967/7584968" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This week, researchers reported that they have seen wild chimpanzees in West Africa sharpening sticks for use as weapons. It's the first time that the primate has been shown to do more than forage for food.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of symphony, "Also Sprach Zarathustra")

SIMON: The imaginations of Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick were confirmed this week. Researchers reported they've seen wild chimpanzees in West Africa making weapons. Scientists in Senegal have documented chimps using their hands to tear off branches, tear back the bark and sharpen the spear with their teeth to hunt small mammals.

Researcher Jill D. Pruetz of Iowa State University, who apparently knows how to sharpen a good quote for reporters, told the newspaper that watching the animals jab their prey reminded her of the shower scene in "Psycho." It was really alarming how forceful it was, she said. It was kind of scary. Previous studies have documented chimps sliding sticks into termite mounds to look for food, but scientists say that chimps making weapons promotes the idea that early humans used weapons five million years ago and that females are more proficient at tool use than men. Did Larry Summers know that? Now the researchers are seeing if the chimps can set up their TiVo.

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