A blossoming chimpanzee romance has been a cause for celebration for a UQ research team.
In February, new chimps Samantha and Hollie (pictured) joined long-time male residents Ockie and Cassie, who have called the Rockhampton Zoo home for 25 years.
Zoo life sciences coordinator Graham Strachan said the introduction of the new chimps had been “textbook”, and that the four animals were interacting well.
Dr Emma Collier-Baker and her colleagues from the School of Psychology have worked with the male chimpanzees on several research projects over the past decade, gaining valuable insights into the comparative cognition of primates and children.
Dr Collier-Baker said this behavioural research was non-invasive, and relied on the voluntary participation of great apes. She said Ockie and Cassie had helped with multiple UQ honours and PhD projects, and were naturally curious animals who found problem-solving tasks rewarding.
In 2006, the research team showed how chimpanzees could complete what is known as an “invisible displacement task”, an experiment on object tracking made famous by developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. Success on this task is only achieved by children aged around 18–24 months. The team have since found a number of human cognitive capacities at this age to be shared with chimps and other great ape species.
Dr Collier-Baker said chimpanzees were still subjected to invasive biomedical research in some countries, and that great apes were under severe extinction threat as a result of human activities, primarily deforestation.
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