Great ape cognition in collaboration with Zoo Atlanta
We collaborate with Dr. Tara Stoinski and her team at Zoo Atlanta to study the cognitive abilities of orangutans and gorillas.
Our partnership with Zoo Atlanta allows us to explore cognitive differences and similarities between closely related primate species by conducting analogous tests of cognition in rhesus monkeys and apes. Currently, 10 orangutans and 11 gorillas participate in a variety of cognitive tasks on touch screen computers at Zoo Atlanta, which allows for productive comparisons between species. Like our rhesus monkey subjects, the orangutans and gorillas at Zoo Atlanta participate in cognitive tasks that probe ordinal and spatial representation of information, logical inference, classification, and memory.
While much of the cognitive research at Zoo Atlanta occurs behind the scenes, the gorilla training panel and the Orangutan Learning Tree provide a unique opportunity to see research on primate cognition firsthand during scheduled cognitive demonstrations. The picture on the right (courtesy of Zoo Atlanta) shows Madu, a 28-year-old female orangutan, using the touch screen to take a cognitive test. The video depicts an orangutan (at Zoo Atlanta) and a rhesus monkey (at Yerkes Primate Center) performing identical categorization tasks. The picture below (courtesy of Zoo Atlanta) shows Sukari, a 15-year-old female gorilla, performing another cognitive test on a touch screen.
We also collaborate with Dr. Stoinski to broaden the research opportunities available to Emory University undergraduate students by co-mentoring student researchers as they conduct research at Zoo Atlanta.