Animals That Use Tools

For a long time, scientists believed that humans were the only animals that used tools. But over the last few decades, biologists have discovered that a number of other species use tools as well.

We’ll talk about some of the animals that use tools to survive below.


Our closest cousins often use tools to collect food.

Chimpanzees are some of the closest relatives that humans have. They have a number of physical similarities with humans, and they behave in some of the same ways that humans do too.

Chimpanzees are very intelligent, and they live in social groups as people do. They also have very strong hands, which are good at gripping different items. These traits make them very well-suited for using tools. Their social relationships and big brains mean they can learn from each other, and their hands allow them to manipulate the tools they create.

Chimpanzees use tools in a variety of ways, but they are especially good at using tools to reach food. For example, chimpanzees often like to eat ants and termites. But ants and termites usually spend their time hiding beneath tree bark or underground. Some even construct very large mounds that they call home.

Accordingly, chimpanzees need to use tools to reach these hidden insects. They’ll often use a stick to do so. After removing all of the branches and leaves from a stick, they’ll insert the stick into the termite or ant colony. Some of the insects will then crawl on the stick. The chimpanzee can then remove the stick and lick off the delicious insects.


These brainy birds will use sticks and small stones to reach food and water.

Crows are some of the most intelligent birds in the world, and they exhibit a variety of interesting behaviors. But while scientists have long known that crows were intelligent, they’ve recently learned that they’re even smarter than we previously suspected.

For example, we know that crows teach things to their offspring and other members of their flock (fun fact: A group of crows is called a “murder”). We also know that they can recognize the faces of different people and that they remember people who try to harm them.

Crows also use tools. Many will pick up small sticks and use them to access hiding insects or other edible things. But scientists have also observed crows throwing rocks into shallow containers of water. When they do this, it causes the level of the water to rise (just like the water does when you climb into a bathtub). This allows the crows to drink water that they normally couldn’t reach.

In fact, scientists have even taught crows to complete complex tasks that require tools. They may not perform these kinds of complicated feats in the wild, but we know they are capable of doing so.


Just because they live in the water doesn’t mean dolphins can’t use tools.

Dolphins are famous for being very intelligent animals. In fact, some scientists suspect that dolphins are the smartest non-human animals in the world.

Dolphins not only communicate, which is a sign of intelligence, but they also invent new ways to catch fish. Some, for example, have learned to corral fish in shallow water. This way, the fish can’t escape the hunting dolphins. Dolphins have also been recorded helping other dolphins escape predators and capture food.

But the most impressive thing about dolphin intelligence is their ability to use tools. After all, dolphins don’t have hands or feet like chimpanzees or crows do. Instead, they have to pick up tools with their mouths.

Some dolphins living near Australia have recently been observed using sponges to help catch food. They’ll grab the sponge in their mouth and then drag it across the ocean floor. This helps the dolphins to uncover stingrays and hiding fish, which they can then catch and eat.

Sea Otters

Sea otters use tools to open hard-shelled prey.

Sea otters are adorable animals, who attract a lot of attention at public zoos. They engage in a number of interesting behaviors, and they have very endearing personalities that people often find captivating. But otters aren’t just fun to watch – they’re also very intelligent. They can even use tools to collect food.

Otters are carnivores, who feed on a variety of aquatic creatures, including clams and other mollusks. But these animals are usually protected by a hard shell, which can be difficult to open. Fortunately for otters, they’ve figured out how to use tools to remove the animals from their shells.

The otters start by swimming down to the bottom of the sea and picking up a clam. But before surfacing, they also pick up a very hard rock. Once they return to the surface, they’ll flip over and float on their backs. They’ll then rest the clam on their stomach and begin hammering it with the rock.

Eventually, they’ll strike the clam in just the right way, and the shell will break open. They can then remove the clam and enjoy the tasty treat.


Elephants use their trunks to wield tools in several ways.

Elephants are the largest land-dwelling animals in the world, and they’re also among the smartest. They’re even known to use tools from time to time.

But like sea otters, elephants lack hands. This would normally make it difficult for most animals to manipulate tools, but elephants have trunks, which they can control very well. They can use their trunks to grip a variety of items, but they usually make their tools from large sticks.

After finding a big stick and removing all of the side branches, elephants will use their new tool for a variety of purposes. Sometimes, they’ll use the sticks to swat away pesky flies, mosquitoes and other biting bugs. But they also use these sticks to short out electric fences. This way, animals can access protected areas, where food is plentiful.

Elephants have also been observed throwing sticks at other animals. They may do so to drive animals out of their territory, or to fend off predators.


The five animals discussed above are all great examples of species that use tools to survive. However, these aren’t the only animals that use tools. Octopi, orangutans, macaques, and other animals occasionally use tools as well.

Can you think of any other species that use tools? Share your examples in the comments below.