Ecologist Meredith Root-Bernstein made the discovery while observing an endangered species of swine at the Jardin des plantes in Paris. She noticed one of the Visayan warty pigs picking up a stick in her mouth and digging a hole with it. Further observation confirmed that the animals were preparing nests for the arrival of piglets due in six months. They were even recorded using a kitchen spatula that researchers put in the enclosure as part of their investigation.
Pigs are widely regarded as among the most intelligent animal species, with some research suggesting they can match a three-year-old human child. But up until now there have been no previous reports of the pig species Suidae – either wild or domesticated – using tools.
Tool use has been reported in several other non-human species, including dolphins, elephants, monkeys and birds. Wild chimps have been seen teaching their children to use tools to probe for termites and a cockatoo was observed inventing and making his own tool in captivity in Austria.
Journal Reference: Root-Bernstein, M., et al. Context-specific tool use by Sus cebifrons, Journal of Mammalian Biology, Volume 98, September 2019, Pages 102-110. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mambio.2019.08.003