Humans weren’t the only primates to have the block blues, a UK study finds

Humans weren’t the only primates to have the block blues, a UK study finds

Humans weren’t the only primates to have the block blues, a UK study finds

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Jacob King / PA

Humans weren’t the only ones to develop bad habits during the block. According to new research, some primates in zoos became more lonely and sedentary and others exhibited more sexually and physically dominant behaviors.

The study compared the behavior of bonobos, chimpanzees, baboons, and gorillas in a zoo and safari park in 2020, when they were hidden from human gaze during the lockdown, with how they behaved after visitors returned.

The researchers observed that the olive baboons performed fewer sexual and dominating behaviors when visitors returned than they had shown during the lockdown.

They also approached visitors’ cars more frequently than they had the ranger’s vehicle when the park was closed.

The study, published in Animals magazine, found that when visitors returned, bonobos and gorillas spent less time alone and gorillas spent less time resting.

The chimps studied ate more and engaged more with their enclosures when the zoo was open.

Related: The United States Zoo fears that the teenage gorilla’s exposure to phones is at the root of the antisocial behavior

According to the scientists, it is difficult to determine whether the lockdown experiences were positive, negative, or neutral for individual animals, but the chimpanzees and baboons appeared to be specifically stimulated by the return of visitors.

Likewise, bonobos and gorillas who spend less time alone could be considered positive.

But the reduction in resting behavior in the more sedentary gorillas could also suggest they have been disturbed by visitors, the researchers say.

Research suggests that the gorillas altered the use of their enclosure, which suggested they could modify their behavior to reduce potential overstimulation and manage their own experiences effectively.

According to the findings, while the olive baboons may have been stimulated by visitors and the presence of cars, there was a threshold beyond which this did not increase.

The study also reports that their increased sexual behavior during closure could be due to the fact that they lacked the stimulation of the presence of moving vehicles.

Dr Samantha Ward, zoo animal welfare scientist at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said: ‘Primates are some of the most cognitively advanced species in zoos and their interactions with visitors are complex.

“One limitation to understanding how visitors can influence animal behavior in zoos and parks is that they are rarely close to the public for extended periods, so this gave us a unique opportunity.”

Related: “It’s a sad day”: Bristol Zoo welcomes the last few visitors before closing

The interactions between humans and animals and the impact of the presence of visitors to the zoo are considered crucial in relation to the welfare of the animals, the experts suggest.

Research has shown that different species, and even individual animals, respond differently to different humans.

Dr Ellen Williams, Zoo Animal Welfare Researcher at Harper Adams University, said, “Our study showed the various ways visitors can influence the behavior of captive primates.

“Behavioral changes and changes in the use of the enclosure in the presence of visitors highlight the adaptability of zoological species to their environments.

“Providing environments that allow animals to actively adapt in this way is really important to their well-being.”

Behavioral data for the study was collected between April and September 2020 and from November 2020 to January 2021, covering multiple opening and closing periods during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas were observed at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, while baboons were monitored by Knowsley Safari staff in Merseyside.

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