Snow Monkey Uses Touch Screen Computer to Choose Name for Offspring at Lincoln Park Zoo

Japanese macaque picks Minato for male infant name via touchscreen at Regenstein Macaque Forest

CHICAGO (October 26, 2021) — What’s in a name? At Lincoln Park Zoo – science! A snow monkey, Mito, chose the name for her male infant using touchscreen computer technology alongside Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes researchers at Regenstein Macaque Forest. The infant, born August 3, has been named Minato.

Mito, a 15-year-old Japanese macaque gave birth to the male infant earlier this summer. Since then, both mother and infant have acclimated to the troop of 13 snow monkeys.

The snow monkeys at Regenstein Macaque Forest regularly participate in voluntary primate cognition research which uses touchscreens to help zoo researchers understand how the primates experience the world. From these studies, Fisher Center scientists can better understand macaques’ ability to sequence and memorize symbols as well as their individual food preferences, enhancing the zoo’s ability to ensure high-level care and welfare for these primates.

Due to Mito’s familiarity with the touchscreen, she was provided two name options upon voluntarily entering the state-of-the-art cognition cube at the macaque habitat. The names for all of the snow monkey offspring at the zoo are inspired by Japanese cities and towns, paying homage to macaques’ native habitat, and begin with the same first letter as their mother to demonstrate the prominent matrilines in this species. Mito’s name choices were Minato or Miyoshi. Minato, the chosen name via touchscreen, is a part of the city of Tokyo with a population of about 240,000 people and means “port”.

“Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to providing choice and control to the species in its care whenever possible, which is exemplified in the zoo’s voluntary primate cognitive research program,” says Steve Ross, Ph.D., director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. “In the spirit of providing choice, we gave snow monkey Mito the opportunity to choose her infant’s name, selecting between two options”.

Since Regenstein Macaque Forest’s opening in 2015, Lincoln Park Zoo has welcomed seven infants to the troop, demonstrating the excellent care and welfare being provided to this unique species.

Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to conservation and research of primates through the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. Fisher Center researchers engage in cutting-edge science at the zoo and in the wild to learn more about how to best understand and protect our closest living relative.

Zoo visitors have opportunities to witness behavioral scientists regularly working with the snow monkeys in the public-facing researcher booth.

Japanese macaques are found throughout most of Japan and are known for their tolerance for extreme climates, from sub-tropical lowlands to sub-alpine regions. While snow monkey populations do have alpha males, rank is determined by matrilines, meaning societal rank is inherited by offspring from their mothers. To learn more about Lincoln Park Zoo, visit lpzoo.org.

About Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo inspires communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world. The zoo is a leader in local and global conservation, animal care and welfare, learning, and science. A historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately-managed, member-supported organization and is free and open 365 days a year. Visit us at lpzoo.org.

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