Budongo’s got talent!

January 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

 The Budongo Trail chimpanzees are set to become stars of the screen when they are featured in a BBC Natural World documentary this week. The 11 chimps have been taking part in a voluntary study called ‘The Chimpcam Project’ for the last 18 months. This is a joint collaboration between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), University of Stirling and Burning Gold Productions.

The documentary follows behavioural scientist Betsy Herrelko of the University of Stirling as she observes how the chimps react to a variety of new experiences. The chimps are introduced to video technology with footage of chimpanzees in the wild. Following this the chimps are trained to (gently!) operate a touch-screen to select from a variety of images such as the keepers preparing food or their outside enclosure. All of their  choices and reactions were logged and studied meticulously by Betsy. The final part of the project then involved placing a chimp-proof video camera into the enclosure. The camera is encased in a sturdy box with a monitor on the side so the chimps could see what they were filming. The documentary explores the extent to which the chimps are aware of what they are seeing and filming and, for the first time, we are able to see the world through a chimp’s eyes.

Cindy settles in to watch some TV!

 Betsy Herrelko, explains:

“The Chimpcam Project was designed to let the chimps take us on a tour of their minds. We created studies and activities, but what happened after that was completely up to the chimps. We were along for the ride, hoping to learn a bit more about how they viewed the world. Being able to view life as the chimps see it is something that I will never forget.

We set out to accomplish an enormous task and we’ve learned a tremendous amount about starting a research programme like this one (with chimps new to research, training, and their surroundings). This group of chimps has come a long way in the past 18 months! They are quite the characters – funny, clever, and sometimes a bit quirky. I only hope they’ll be interested in working with me in the future.”

 Natural World – The Chimpcam Project will be shown on Wednesday 27 January, 8pm-9pm on BBC 2

Qafzeh gets a closer look at the new toy!

Finally, we are also pleased to announce (at last!) that a thick-billed parrot chick hatched on the 15th August last year! Following fledging, the chick was initially kept off-show, as it was having trouble perching and required veterinary treatment. It is believed that the chick might have had this trouble as a result of being a bit restricted inside the nest box. However, it is now fully recovered and can be seen on-show with the other thick-billed parrots, next to the monkey house. Thick-billed parrot chicks develop slowly and are cared for by both parents. They stay in the nest for two to three months before they fledge and the parents continue to feed them for a short time while they learn to forage for themselves. Thick billed parrots are hatched with pale beaks that darken as they grow older. Our chick still has a pale beak so he is easy to distinguish from the others!

Spot the chick with the white beak!



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