Saturday, 10 December 2011

Monkeys at Marwell Wildlife use touch screens in study

A primate study centre has opened in Hampshire where endangered monkeys will learn to use touch screen computers.

The Sulawesi crested macaques will take part in a study at Marwell Wildlife to help scientists understand their memory, communication and emotions.

Visitors to the park, near Winchester, will be able to see the scientists and monkeys at work in a glassed area.

The project is a joint venture between Marwell and the University of Portsmouth.

"The animals can make choices using the touch screens and this offers us a direct window into their understanding," said lead scientist Dr Bridget Waller, from the university's department of psychology.

The centre has been built alongside the park's Sulawesi crested macaque island allowing the macaques, which originate from Indonesia, to voluntarily enter the specialised research area.

'Keen to participate'
Those monkeys which take part are free to end the sessions whenever they like, return to their daily activities and receive food treats.

Dr Waller said: "This method is an excellent way to study the animals because they are curious about the tasks and keen to participate in activities with the researchers."

The park said the centre was the first of its kind, studying cognitive functions of the endangered species which has declined by 80% in the past 40 years.

It is hoped the long-term project may reveal a link between human and primate thinking.

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