<p><strong>The supersmart <a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/chimpanzee/">chimpanzees</a> of the new movie<em> <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1318514/">Rise of the Planet of the Apes</a></em> may exist only on the silver screen—but in real life, great apes are still brainiacs of the animal kingdom.</strong></p><p>Evidence for ape intelligence got a major boost in the 1960s in Gombe, <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/tanzania-guide/">Tanzania</a>, when <a href="http://www.nationalgeographic.com/field/explorers/jane-goodall/">Jane Goodall</a> observed chimpanzees using a twig to "fish" for ants (pictured in a file photo)—the first documentation of wild chimps making and using tools. Until then, toolmaking had been considered a uniquely human ability.</p><p>The "notion is [tool use] requires higher intelligence, because it requires refashioning what nature has provided to achieve the user's goal," <a href="http://www.yorku.ca/arusson/">Anne Russon</a>, an expert in ape intelligence at Canada's York University, said via email.</p><p>Since the toolmaking discovery, scientists have discovered our closest cousins can use sign language, hunt with spears of their own making, and even beat college students in basic memory tests, among other skills.</p><p>(Related: <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/1006_041006_chimps.html">"Chimps Shown Using Not Just a Tool but a 'Tool Kit.'"</a>)</p><p><em>—Christine Dell'Amore</em></p>

Apes Found to Use Tools

The supersmart chimpanzees of the new movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes may exist only on the silver screen—but in real life, great apes are still brainiacs of the animal kingdom.

Evidence for ape intelligence got a major boost in the 1960s in Gombe, Tanzania, when Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees using a twig to "fish" for ants (pictured in a file photo)—the first documentation of wild chimps making and using tools. Until then, toolmaking had been considered a uniquely human ability.

The "notion is [tool use] requires higher intelligence, because it requires refashioning what nature has provided to achieve the user's goal," Anne Russon, an expert in ape intelligence at Canada's York University, said via email.

Since the toolmaking discovery, scientists have discovered our closest cousins can use sign language, hunt with spears of their own making, and even beat college students in basic memory tests, among other skills.

(Related: "Chimps Shown Using Not Just a Tool but a 'Tool Kit.'")

—Christine Dell'Amore

Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

How Smart Are Planet's Apes? 7 Intelligence Milestones

They're not Rise of the Planet of the Apes smart, but they're no dummies. See how apes use their heads—possibly better than humans sometimes.

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