Rainforest Chimpanzees Learn How To Dig Wells For Water From ‘Immigrant Chimp’

Chimpanzees are known for being incredibly smart. Scientists have found that chimpanzees form special bonds with each other, they have their own medicine and familial structures, and they even share with each other for the sake of sharing – a trait previously though to be uniquely human.

Now, scientists have discovered something more about chimpanzees: their ability to mimic and learn!

Photo: Pexels/Francesco Ungaro

Researchers from the University of Kent and the University of St Andrews observed rainforest chimpanzees digging wells, which isn’t something that’s previously been observed.

According to a press release from the University of Kent, researchers first noticed the population of chimpanzees in the Waibira community of East Africa in Uganda digging wells to access water after an immigrant chimp named Onyofi was introduced to the group back in 2015.

Photo: Pexels/Petr Ganaj

It’s rare to see animals dig wells for water in the animal kingdom, but Onyofi grew up in a well-digging community and knew the practice.

When she was introduced to the Waibira population of chimps, she demonstrated how to dig wells, and the other female chimpanzees followed suit.

After digging the wells, the chimpanzees drank the water or used moss or chewed up leaves to get water from the wells. While the male chimpanzees didn’t mimic the well-digging behavior or Onyofi, they still drank water from the wells.

Photo: Pexels/Francesco Ungaro

Scientists believe this is the first time the behavior of digging wells has been observed in rainforest chimpanzees.

The research, titled, “Well-digging in a community of forest-living wild East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii),” was published in Primates back in June 2022. You can read the full study here.

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