Combining Learning and Care

Lincoln Park Zoo is known for working with great apes, but our efforts in that area don’t just extend to offering world-class care. It includes learning from gorillas and chimpanzees as well.

Several items in the news recently highlight the zoo’s emphasis on learning and care. The first comes all the way from the Republic of Congo’s Goualougo Triangle. Zoo research there on a rare form of chimpanzee tool use—“honey pounding”—was featured this week in the series “Africa” on the Discovery Channel. Beyond giving us a look at one of the most remote places on Earth, this exciting feature shared how zoo research grows our understanding of great-ape tool use.

Chimpanzees in the treetops of the Goualougo Triangle. Photo by Ian Nichols, NGS.

Chimpanzees in the treetops of the Goualougo Triangle. Photo by Ian Nichols, NGS.

Increasing understanding is also the motivation for the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. The center’s focus on great ape cognition and behavior is set to deepen with the arrival of Research Scientist Lydia Hopper, Ph.D.

To see how apes learn from their peers—and respond to inequity—Lydia is developing a research program where the zoo’s chimpanzees and gorillas will learn to trade tokens for tasty treats. The projects will engage the zoo’s apes and offer us valuable insight into how they think.

Beyond building knowledge, the Fisher Center is also an important voice for promoting ape well-being. Fisher Center Director Steve Ross, Ph.D., has recently completed his role on an advisory group to the National Institutes of Health, who earlier this week released their recommendations for the care of chimpanzees living in research laboratories. Steve’s role highlights our leadership in the field of great ape research—and our commitment to their care.

Kevin Bell


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