Martin Block


Tool using behaviors are viewed as more intelligent as they require a certain set of cognitive abilities. Many species, including great apes and, particularly, chimpanzees, have been shown to use tools both in the wild and in captivity. Gorillas have been observed to use tools in the wild twice and only recently have they been tested in captivity. The current study used two experiments to test the tool using capabilities of the group of Western Lowland gorillas under controlled conditions at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Massachusetts. The first study used a common test involving extraction of hidden food from a tube using a stick. The second study tested whether one male gorilla could use a different object (piece of cloth) as a tool to obtain out-of- reach food, and if he understood what features made a tool successful. Results showed some of these gorillas have the ability to select and use objects as tools to acquire food they cannot reach. One gorilla could use different objects as tools and demonstrated his ability to identify which features of those objects were functionally important. The results also suggest social learning variables, such as maternal support, may have an effect on the success rate of young gorillas in using tools.

Date Accepted


Publication Date



tool use, gorilla

Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Rights Holder

Hilary Jones

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