Lecture about great apes and their pets

On Sunday September 25, I will be giving a lecture on an information day about cat behaviour in Den Bosch. This day is organized by Marcellina Stolting and her Kattengedragsadviesbureau, a cat behaviour advisory bureau (click here to go to her website). Stolting is a longtime expert on cat behaviour and gives advice on problematic behaviour of cats to their human companions and she also teaches about cat behaviour. Together with Els Peeters, a behavioural biologist from Antwerp University, Stolting organizes several information days a year in both The Netherlands and Belgium, in order to give the latest scientific information about cat behaviour and behavioural problems of cats for those professionally involved with cats, cat ‘owners’ or anyone else interested. Stolting and Peeters are also founders of the Feline Welfare Foundation, in which they promote good and sound advice and information on matters of importance for the physical and mental welfare of cats. Click here for the Feline Welfare Foundation’s website.

A human great ape and his cat friend Slungel

My lecture on September 25 is titled “Great apes and their pets” and will present the interesting relationships across the species barrier between the famous nonhuman great apes from the language research projects and other animals such as cats and dogs. Well-known is the story about the signing gorilla Koko and her love of kittens. Penny Patterson, her lifetime companion and researcher of Koko’s use of signs, claims that Koko was very sad and signed CRY and SAD when her first kitten All Ball died in a car accident. Besides kittens, Koko also enjoyed the company of a baby blue jay and several tree frogs. The signing orangutan Chantek had a squirrel as pet. Nim Chimpsky, the signing chimpanzee of Herbert Terrace’s project in the 1970s, loved to play with cats and dogs. However, later in his life, after Nim was moved around several institutes and even ended up in the biomedical laboratory LEMSIP for a while, the hardship he went through made him less friendly towards other animals. There is even an account that he killed a miniature poodle. Actually, there is currently a new film on show in the United States and the United Kingdom about the life and fate of Nim Chimpsky. Called Project Nim, by Oscar-winning director James Marsh, the movie shows a lot of footage of Nim and the humans involved in his life are interviewed. The film is based on Elizabeth Hess’s excellent book Nim Chimpsky. The chimp who would be human (2008). Click hereto go to the website about the movie Project Nim and see a trailer. In my lecture I will present both the affectionate and sometimes aggressive attitude of great apes towards other animals.

Affection across the species barrier

Besides the stories about the apes in language research I will also present several relationships between great apes in captivity and cats and dogs. After discussing the way great apes who live in the wild relate to other animals (xenofobic and murderous, but also playing happily with baboons), I will finish with a short presentation of the results that came out of the language research with great apes. I will also show several short films about Koko and Nim playing with cats.

The other lectures of this day are by Els Peeters (The biological origins of cats and their behaviour) and by Marcellina Stolting (Behavioural problems; Socialization of kittens; and Multiple cats households). For more information about this lecture day, click here.


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Filed under Language research with animals, Lectures and courses

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