Living Links Newsletter – October 2023

Welcome to the October edition of the Living Links newsletter

your source of all things monkey and more!

What’s new at Living Links?


This month, the monkeys will be lifting weights! No, not by hitting the gym – our capuchins will be taking part in a new project where they must distinguish between light and heavy objects.

Led by researcher Poppy Lambert, the study aims to measure the ability of capuchins to choose either the heavier or the lighter object of a pair in a simple discrimination task, and compare this to a similar study with Goffin cockatoos. This study will help us understand more about how the minds of these different animals evolved, to make theories of how natural ecology and a species’ lifestyle shapes the way their mind works.

Visitor Experience

Last month, we hosted a special event at the zoo for the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Curious series- Curious Primate Minds! RSE, RZSS and the University of St Andrews came together to run a special day for participants to learn more about the kinds of research taking place at the two primate research centres onsite at Edinburgh Zoo; Living Links and the Budongo Research Unit.

Enthusiastic participants had a tour of the wonderful research facilities, watched live research in action, and then joined a special workshop with our lovely researchers to learn more about how exactly we explore primate minds using voluntary experiments, what kinds of technology we use in research, and how we communicate science to zoo visitors and beyond.

Monkey Business

Our capuchins and squirrel monkeys have some new nest baskets and shelters installed in their outdoor enclosures. The keeper team have made the high up nest baskets by weaving together old fire hose, a popular material for zoo enrichment and structures, and the onsite P&E team made the large wooden shelter boxes. The Gardens team helped install them last week- not an easy task getting structures like these up high for the monkeys! A collaborative effort across multiple departments, and two groups of very happy monkeys!

Monkey of the Month

Our monkey in the spotlight this month is Coquito! Coquito means ‘little coconut’ but look how much he has grown already! Pictured with his mother Agnes here when he was just a few months old, and below this month at 2 years old, Coquito is now getting to the age where he is exploring the research cubicles and taking part in his first research sessions! He is very curious and very happy to get raisins for target training- an easy task we use for training the monkeys- and is re-visiting the cubicles more and more. It wont be long before he takes part in his first research experiment once his confidence and concentration levels are high. Coquito is part of our East capuchin group and you can spot him playing with the other youngsters- he is quite easy to identify as he has a dark face, a large upper head, distinct white patches below his black hairline, and close together orange eye, which he has inherited from his father Kato.

Question of the Month

Q: Do the capuchin and squirrel monkeys ever groom each other?

A: Actually no- squirrel monkeys in fact don’t groom at all, even one another. They instead use vocalisations and body touching, particularly with their tail, to stay close to one another and communicate. The capuchins on the other hand can be seen grooming one another all the time. In other multi-species primate groups, you sometimes see young individuals of one species ‘practicing’ their grooming techniques on another species, but we have not seen this at Living Links yet. More often we see the cheeky youngsters, like Coquito featured above, trying to pull the tails of the squirrel monkeys in play!


Researcher of the Month

This month, the researcher in the spotlight is Dr Eva Reindl who is a joint postdoctoral researcher with Durham University and the University of St Andrews.

Eva is broadly interested in learning which cognitive and social factors differentiate humans from their closest living relatives, the great apes. She is interested in social learning, culture, tool use, memory, and problem-solving. Her most recent work investigates how humans and other primates learn about sequences, and for this study she works with four species at Edinburgh Zoo; our squirrel monkeys and capuchins, the chimpanzees, and human children visiting the zoo!

She studied Psychology for both her BSc and MSc in Germany before embarking on a PhD in Psychology at the University of Birmingham here in the UK, leading to several lecturing and postdoctoral positions. She is a valued contributor to our public engagement events here at the zoo and the squirrel monkeys love her! They still get excited when she passes their window, even though her study has finished with them now!


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