‘Animal Cognition at Edinburgh Zoo’ by Alex Rendón

As always, save the best for last.  This Friday, forty lucky PPLS students got the visit the facilities at the Edinburgh Zoo dedicated to Animal Cognition research, sponsored in part by the Scottish Primate Research Group (SPRG).

For starters, we got introduced to the history and aims of the SPRG and their relationship with the Edinburgh Zoo. Then, two PhD students presented their research, focused on Animal Personality, and Mirror Neurons and Learning in great apes. We then toured the facilities in Edinburgh Zoo devoted to primatology research – the Living Links/Bodongo Research Consortium.

My favorite was the Bodongo Trail, were we go to see chimps up close. However, the architectural features of the Living Links complex are also note worthy. Essentially, they allow researchers to keep animals in large separate, but equivalent areas; they can thus have multiple experiments going on at the same time or establish a control group – this feature is unique to the Edinburgh Zoo facilities. One of the interesting features of research at Edinburgh Zoo is that all animals are treated as participants, not subjects of a study. That is to say, they freely participate in the studies and are free to come and go when they please (no animal is locked in a cage and forced to participate, they can always leave). Lots of exciting research going on.

The experience at the zoo took us beyond just the primate research. We were able to see lots of exotic animals such as Rhinos, Asian Tigers, Tapirs, and the zoo’s main attraction, the panda bear Tian Tian. Great trip for all those with interest in research into animal cognition or animal lovers in general. Very happy to have this opportunity; this was definitely all that ILW was supposed to be.

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