Bear baboons react to observers as relatives of the highest rank: follow them and push back if they get too close. The degree of reaction varies from individual to individual. This contradicts one of the basic ideas of ethology, according to which, accustomed to man, wild animals perceive it as a neutral stimulus. As noted by the authors of the article in the journal Science Advances, the results of their work should be considered when planning new studies.
Zoologists who study animal behavior, sometimes you have to spend a lot of time side by side with the wards. It is believed that animals gradually lose the fear of observers and begin to perceive them as neutral stimulus. This idea is based many ethological studies, but solid evidence it does not.
A team of scientists headed by Andrew Allan (Andrew Allan T. L.) from Durham University decided to test whether the presence of an observer does not introduce distortions in the behavior of friends with wild animals. They focused on the bearish team of South African baboons (Papio ursinus, to be) from the mountains Soutpansberg, which is accustomed to the presence of zoologists.
Two specialists, one of whom worked for a long time with this pack, and the second was a stranger to her, approached its members in different situations and measured the distance after which the baboons will begin to move in ethology it is called the “avoidance distance”. In addition, the estimated second parameter: the distance at which the baboon drew attention to the approaching man and turned her head in his direction. A total of 1656 was carried out such observations with 69 individuals of different rank.
At the approach of the observer, whether familiar or a stranger, baboons watched him and tried to move away from him at some distance. It is not the same as response to predators. However, zoologists were not for the baboons neutral stimulus: rather, monkeys were perceived as relatives of high rank and acted accordingly.
The distance at which the baboons began to follow the observers, and the distance of avoidance varied strongly from specimen to specimen. Meanwhile, each individual baboon these indicators are correlated among themselves. According to the authors, this indicates that the degree of habituation to the observer is an individual psychological feature.
The researchers acknowledge that the results of observations made in the same pack of baboons bear, cannot be transferred to other flocks, and especially to other species. However, the data gathered by them indicate that the idea of people as the neutral stimulus needs to be revised. If zoologists want to avoid the distortion of behaviour associated with human presence, they need to take this into account. For example, in the studied group, to completely eliminate the observer effect, it is necessary to approach the baboons are closer than 17 meters.
Bear baboons — a popular subject of behavioral research. For example, recently, scientists have described 12 cases of the species refused to part with the dead calves for several hours and even days. Perhaps the reason for this behavior lies in the strong emotional and social ties between the members of the pack.
Sergey Knee High