Wary, playful or bored: Fascinating images reveal how different species of apes react to being filmed in their natural habitat in a new experiment conducted in the jungles of Africa
- The team planted camera traps in the African jungle to see how the apes react
- After analysing the footage they found how different species reacted to them
- They observed chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas and found responses differed
- Younger apes would explore the traps by staring at them for longer periods
Remote camera traps planted deep in the African jungle have given a fascinating insight into the behaviour of wild apes.
The apes poked at them, stared at them, and tried to bite them, but responses varied between species and individuals.
Chimpanzees seemed unfazed by the camera traps, while gorillas and bonobos were more likely to show a response.
Bonobos, found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, appeared to be the most wary around the new objects.
Researchers said their reactions suggest scientists should give wild animals time to get used to cameras before beginning to collect data.
Remote camera traps planted deep in the African jungle give a fascinating insight into the behaviour of wild apes. Researchers analysed the video captured from the cameras to see how they responded to unfamiliar objects
Ammie Kalan, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said the goal was to see if the presence of research equipment had any effect on their behaviour.
Dr Kalan said that they also wanted to see has any effect on their behaviour and if there were any differences among the three great apes.
The responses of 43 groups of naive chimpanzees, bonobos, and western gorillas to remote camera-trap devices, across 14 field sites in Africa, were analysed for the study.
‘We were specifically surprised by the differences in reactions we observed between the chimps and bonobos,’ Dr Kalan said.
‘Since they’re sister species and share a lot of the same genetic makeup, we expected them to react similarly to the camera, but this wasn’t the case.’
‘Yet the bonobos appeared to be much more troubled by camera traps; they were hesitant to approach and would actively keep their distance from them.’
Doctor Ammie Kala, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said the goal was to see if the presence of research equipment had any effect on their behaviour. The chimpanzees were overall uninterested in the camera traps
Individuals within a species reacted differently to the cameras as well, including apes living in areas with more human activity, who had been desensitised to foreign objects.
However, another member of the same species who has had less exposure to strange or new items showed more interest.
Among all three species, apes looked at the camera longer when they were younger, interacted with fewer animals, or did not live near human activity.
‘Like human children, they need to take in more information and learn about their environment. Being curious is one way of doing that,’ Dr Kalan added.
The research team wanted to see has any effect on their behaviour and if there were any differences among the three great apes. Younger apes would explore the camera traps more by staring at them for longer periods of time, they said
Doctor Ammie Kala, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said the goal was to see if the presence of research equipment had any effect on their behaviour. She said that they also wanted to see has any effect on their behaviour
The researchers said camera-traps are a useful way of monitoring a large number of animal groups, but should perhaps be used with care.
‘The within and between species variation in behaviour towards the unfamiliar items might be problematic when trying to collect accurate monitoring data,’ Dr Kalan said.
‘To curb this effect, it would be worth having a familiarisation period, where the wild animals can get used to the new items.’
The findings were published in Current Biology.
WHICH ARE SMARTER: CHIMPS OR CHILDREN?
Most children surpass the intelligence levels of chimpanzees before they reach four years old.
A study conducted by Australian researchers in June 2017 tested children for foresight, which is said to distinguish humans from animals.
The experiment saw researchers drop a grape through the top of a vertical plastic Y-tube.
They then monitored the reactions of a child and chimpanzee in their efforts to grab the grape at the other end, before it hit the floor.
Because there were two possible ways the grape could exit the pipe, researchers looked at the strategies the children and chimpanzees used to predict where the grape would go.
The apes and the two-year-olds only covered a single hole with their hands when tested.
But by four years of age, the children had developed to a level where they knew how to forecast the outcome.
They covered the holes with both hands, catching whatever was dropped through every time.