Renowned primatologist to study chimps at Mysore Zoo

Zoos play an important role in making the lives of animals tolerable

Renowned primatologist to study chimps at Mysore Zoo

Chimpanzees are the only primate species, apart from humans, who commit pre-meditated murder! Chimpanzees can use about 1,500 words in sign language and can phrase them in grammatically correct sentences.

“During experiments, we were shocked to see chimpanzees use sign language asking us to get them out of the cage,” said Hilda Tresz, primatologist and manager of applied behaviour at the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona state in the USA.

Being a volunteer of the reputed Jane Goodall Research Institute, the USA, she has been studying chimpanzees for the past 25 years. She will study five chimpanzees at Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Garden (Mysore Zoo) and will assist in breeding programmes of primates. According to director of the Zoo B P Ravi, chimpanzee breeding was last successful in 1984, after which the breeding pair of Chimpanzees were exchanged for giraffes.

Breeding of primates is ‘critical’ and ‘difficult’. We need to take stock of the current difficulties in motivating chimpanzees to breed, so that we can succeed again, he said.

“The Zoo is trying various techniques to stimulate these animals to breed. The Zoo will be assisted by the expertise of Hilda in this venture,” Ravi said.

Though chimpanzees dislike being in cages, Hilda maintains that zoos have an important role to play in making the life of these animals tolerable and easier. “Since the habitat of these sociable primates are being destroyed at an alarming rate in the African continent, zoos are the last resort,” she said. Hilda said, since chimpanzees and humans are similar and ‘interesting’, they have set preferences. The chimpanzees have an intelligence level of a six-year-old human being. If they don’t like something, they display their aversion openly, like humans.

Contra-freeloading

Hilda will also make presentations on contra-freeloading. “Contra-freeloading is a technique that simulates zoo animals to forage for their food. By this we prevent animals from just ‘eating’,” she said.

In the method, we make sure that these animals search for their food, acquire it and then eat. This will make the animals more active and help in well-being.

Hilda will deliver presentations on topics such as substrate use, enrichment programme for elephants and others till March 29.

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