Enrichment Using Tools

Chimpanzees frequently use tools, especially those used for feeding. One common practice is to use probes to fish for termites. As a Visiting Intern this summer, my goal for an enrichment project was to create a simple apparatus that would simulate natural “termite fishing” tool-use behavior. Behavioral enrichment is an animal husbandry practice used to enhance the well-being of animals in captivity, especially through increasing species-specific behaviors. Based on a design found online, I built a termite fishing board with cups of sticky food, such as honey, soy yogurt, or jelly, that could be gathered with a probe-like tool.

Tatu and Loulis Use Tools

To test out the board, Kaeley and I asked Tatu if she wanted to play, and we showed her the board. Before explaining or demonstrating the apparatus to her, we told her to meet us inside. When she came in, she brought a branch with her to use as a tool, which demonstrated planning. We set the board before her, and we passed her tubes and more branches to serve as probes to collect the food. Loulis joined her, and they each began gathering food from the cups. Loulis found success in using a stick, while Tatu used different styles of tubes. We noticed that Tatu sucked on the tube like a straw, so we decided to fill a cup with juice. Tatu was quick to enjoy the drink using her extra-long straw. Together, Tatu and Loulis enjoyed the snacks they collected from the termite fishing board.

After the long process of designing, building, and implementing my enrichment project, I was thrilled to see the chimps’ enthusiasm to use the termite fishing board. Overall, I would consider this experience a success!

You can purchase Enrichment for the chimps! Visit our list of Everyday Items.


–by Caroline Loftus, Fauna Visiting Intern 2017