The ability to use tools in animals is a rare occurrence, and it is linked to higher mental processes, like the ability to plan actions.
Orangutans share 97 percent of their DNA with humans and are among the most intelligent primates, and numerous scientists have investigated their tool-related decision-making processes.
An orangutan was photographed using a spear tool to fish, after learning the skill while seeing locals fishing on the Gohong River.
The photo was published in the 2008 book Thinkers of the Jungle: The Orangutan Report by Schuster, Smits, and Ullal, and it was described as follows:
“…a male orangutan, clinging precariously to overhanging branches, flails the water with a pole, trying desperately to spear a passing fish…The extraordinary image, a world exclusive, was taken in Borneo on the island of Kaja… This individual had seen locals fishing with spears on the Gohong River.
Although the method required too much skill for him to master, he was later able to improvise by using the pole to catch fish already trapped in the locals’ fishing lines.”
Yet, it is important to note that this ape didn’t actually catch any fish. First of all, the typical orangutan diet mainly consists of fruits, flowers, leaves, and insects.
Also, a 2013 Harvard study discovered that apes do not have the required anatomical features to perform high-speed overhand motions, which explains why the orangutan did not master spearfishing.
Anthropologist Biruté Galdikas was the first to observe the tool-use behavior in wild Bornean orangutans in the Tanjung Puting National Park in 1982.
In 1994, while working in Gunung Leuser National Park, in the northwest Sumatra, Carel van Schaik noticed orangutans developing tools to help themselves eat.