Chimpanzees love to eat termites, but figuring out how to reach the small insects when they’re deep within their mounds presents quite a challenge! In the 1960s in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, a young researcher named Jane Goodall discovered how chimpanzees solve this problem. Jane watched as a chimp named David Greybeard picked up a twig and stripped the leaves off of it. She then watched David stick the twig into a hole on a large termite mound, leave it there for a moment, and then slowly pull it out. As termites clung to the twig, David picked them off with his lips and ate them. David was using the twig to “fish” for the termites! This was an early observation of an animal making a crude – but effective – tool. Soon after this discovery, Jane observed other chimpanzees performing the same behavior.
This hands-on activity is designed to teach kids about how chimpanzees forage for food. Similar to how chimpanzees fish for termites, kids will try to catch small foam balls (“termites”) using pipe cleaners (“twigs”). Metal brads in the foam balls and a magnet attached to the end of the pipe cleaner mimics the idea of the termites clinging to the twig.