A lot of people might not think of pigs as particularly intelligent, but it is a known fact that an adult pig is as smart, or even smarter than an average three old human. A new study has revealed another side to their intellect that has gone mostly undiscovered until now.
A family of severely endangered Visayan warty pigs were witnessed utilizing sticks as tools to dig up the ground in an attempt to construct a nest. Pigs aren’t especially renowned for making nests, but it’s not unheard of, however, pigs that make use of rudimentary items is something new altogether.
Conservation ecologist and co-author of the study, Meredith Root-Bernstein, made the discovery in a Parisian zoo some time ago, when Priscilla the pig was seen digging using a stick she was holding in her mouth.
“She would deposit some leaves, move them to a different spot on the mound, and dig a bit with her nose,” Root-Bernstein noted. “At one point she picked up a flat piece of bark about 10 cm x 40 cm that was lying on that mound, and holding it in her mouth, used it to dig, lifting and pushing the soil backwards, quite energetically and rapidly.”
Pigs are using tools, but researchers are wondering why
After several years of keeping with Priscilla’s unusual ability, researchers altered attributes in the pen to see how Priscilla and her group of warty pigs responded to the tools.
Priscilla, her mate, and one of their offspring used sticks to form a freshly dug nest. According to the findings, the females’ coordination with the tools were substantially better than that of the male.
Researchers are questioning why these pigs are actually doing this as it seems that tool-usage in this case isn’t as impactful as their traditional digging techniques where they use their hooves and snouts.
It’s well documented that chimpanzees use tools to search for food, but this is practically a first for pigs.
“Just using tools at all is very significant!” said Root-Bernstein. “At the time, there were no scientific reports on tool use in any kind of pigs. That doesn’t happen so often either.”