Living Links Newsletter – December 2023

Welcome to the December edition of the Living Links newsletter,

your source of all things monkey and more!

What’s new at Living Links?


Living Links welcomes Gabriella Smith, a visiting PhD student from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria. In Vienna, Gabriella has studied themes of curiosity such as violations of expectations, explanation seeking, and strategic curiosity in both kea and cockatoo parrots. At Living Links, Gabriella will be examining similar themes in the capuchin monkeys, such as how they react and seek information following a bait-and-switch magic trick, as well as whether the monkeys search strategically to find food that rattles. By utilising experimental methods such as classic cubicle testing, thermal imaging, and observation from the viewing decks, Gabriella aims to tackle questions such as “what does curiosity look like in different species?” and “what emotions are involved following a surprise in animals?”.

Visitor Experience

We are excited to announce a new member of to our team at Living Links! Jessica is joining us from The University of St Andrews. She is currently working as an administrator with a focus on public engagement and research impact. Her primary focus is getting the word out about all the great work done at Living Links and BRU, including through this newsletter!

We would also like to share Postdoc researcher Eva Reindl’s research video for visitors, describing her interest in primates’ understanding of sequences; we featured Eva as our ‘Researcher of the Month’ in Novembers newsletter! Click on the video on the right to learn more about Eva’s research topic.

Monkey of the Month

Our monkey of the month is Jorge!

He truly stands out in the keeper training sessions. Initially, Jorge was quite the elusive participant, rarely choosing to attend sessions. When he did venture inside, he was quite shy, making it a challenge to even offer him a treat without sending him scurrying away. However, after a few months, Jorge blossomed into one of our top participants, radiating confidence and proving to be an absolute standout in the group.

Did you know…    

Brown capuchin monkeys are pretty smart cookies! They’ve been known to use stones as tools to crack open difficult foods such as nuts or shellfish. You may spot our monkeys using stones, bamboo or logs to bash other objects in their enclosure. Though Squirrel monkeys have been known to use tools, they do so less than their larger friends.

Question of the Month

Q: How do capuchin monkeys communicate with each other?

A: Capuchin monkeys communicate using a variety of vocalisations, facial expressions, and body language. One interesting aspect is their use of different vocal calls to convey specific information, such as warning calls for potential predators or indicating the location of food sources.

Keeper of the Month

This month we are highlighting one of the brilliant keeping team that our researchers work so closely with at Living Links, and the training activities that are so important to their role.

Kenna Valles has been a keeper on the Living Links & Budongo section at Edinburgh Zoo for three years, working with chimpanzees, gibbons, bagot goats, capuchins and squirrel monkeys. She has a BSc in Animal Behaviour and an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare. She has been a zookeeper for five years, having also worked at Shepreth Wildlife Park, and previously worked in the field of conservation and wildlife rehabilitation. She is also a representative on the Animal Welfare Advisory Group for RZSS, and important role within the zoo.

Kenna is very enthusiastic about animal training and has spearheaded new training initiatives at Living Links. Animal training is an important tool in animal care, as it allows keepers and vets to carry out husbandry and veterinary procedures more easily and in a manner that is less stressful for the animals. She has been particularly successful with recent training of the squirrel monkeys to improve their voluntary entering of a ‘holding pen’ in their enclosure used for veterinary procedures. While the year before only one ‘West’ monkey entered this area voluntarily for annual vaccinations, through positive reinforcement training, Kenna and the team have successfully encouraged the whole ‘West’ group to voluntarily enter the holding pen for this years vaccinations! Once locked in the area their behaviour was noticeably less stressed and more confident than previous years too- a great success! Read more in Kenna’s blog post below!


Click here to learn more about the training Kenna and the team has worked on in Kenna’s blog for our Living Links website!

Leave a comment