Research at Chimfunshi
Chimfunshi – Protecting the animals – promoting research
In recent years, Chimfunshi has evolved into a major centre for education and research. The sanctuary offers the unique opportunity for scientists and students to observe the complex social behaviour of chimpanzees in large social groups in a nearly natural habitat.. Chimfunshi also allows for a number of social and educational projects that provide a chance to get to know the people and culture of Zambia.
Animal welfare and research complement each other perfectly at Chimfunshi: primate researchers from around the world come to Chimfunshi to investigate the chimpanzees’ behavior, enrich their lives, and learn about how to further enhance their welfare. Scientists are studying social behavior, communication and cognition. Some scientists bring along international student programs that teach students the methods of behavioural research. Visiting scientists and local experts often lead field trips are offered to investigate the unique flora and fauna of Zambia.
Chimfunshi works closely and regularly with scientists from the Max Planck Institutes for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) and for Psycholinguistics (Nijmegen, Netherlands), the Free University of Berlin and Gonzaga University in the U.S. All scientists who come to Chimfunshi present their findings on site to exchange knowledge with the local staff and community. Many visiting students teach at the local school to help the children learn about and develop appreciation for their unique environment.
The Education Center at Chimfunshi not only attracts international primate scientists and students but also Zambian school classes and their teachers.
The Chimfunshi Research Advisory Board (CRAB) was founded in 2010 and is chaired by Dr. Edwin van Leeuwen. CRAB reviews and hosts selected research projects at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust with the aim to better understand chimpanzee behaviour in general, and the specific behaviour and welfare of the chimpanzees at Chimfunshi in particular. As part of the official Chimfunshi structure, CRAB collaborates closely with the Chimfunshi team on site to align research with the mission of Chimfunshi.
Research on the social behaviour of chimpanzees
Chimpanzees are social animals who learn from each other and work together. Scientists at Chimfunshi study the social behaviour of chimpanzees in order to better understand how they interact with each other, how they form friendships and alliances, and how they cooperate and compete with one another. The scientists are also studying whether there are different cultures among the chimpanzee populations at Chimfunshi; for example, do communities differ in how they handle conflicts or solve problems? Do they pass along traditions or knowledge specific to their Groups?
Another set of questions posed by Chimfunshi researchers involves understanding the signals they use to communicate with each other. Chimpanzees use many different communication channels such as calls, gestures, postures and facial expressions. Researchers are studying how chimpanzees combine these different communication channels, whether they learn the communication system of their group when they are young, and different groups have their own communication systems.
Scientists with a long-standing relationship with Chimfunshi have developed a research program that has trained the local keepers to collect behavioral data using video cameras and a mobile app. The local staff have mastered basic behavioral data collection methods and international scientists are now learning about what the chimpanzees are doing on a daily basis, and curating a long-term history of the chimpanzees’ behavior.
For examples of what scientists have learned from the Chimfunshi chimpanzees, see here.
Information for interested scientists who wish to conduct research at Chimfunshi can be found here :Top