When the public was locked out from zoos during the pandemic, did the animals miss their human visitors or welcome the peace? UK researchers set out to answer that question, and while they didn't settle on a definitive answer, they did find some interesting changes in behavior, reports the Guardian. Bonobos, for example, had more sex during the pandemic—or at least the olive baboons at a safari in Merseyside did, according to the study in the journal Animals. Researchers theorize that with fewer cars passing through, the animals had fewer distractions as well.
The study also examined the behavior of chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, and bonobos at the safari and a zoo in Leicestershire. The results were a mixed bag. Bonobos and gorillas spent more time alone during the lockdowns, compared to when visitors returned, per the Independent. Chimps began eating more and engaging more actively with their environment when the gates reopened. The gorillas also appeared to rest more during the pandemic. Whether all of the above is good or bad is open to interpretation, but the results and similar future studies might inform how such enclosures are run.
“Primates are some of the most cognitively advanced species in zoos and their interactions with visitors are complex," says researcher Dr. Samantha Ward of Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, per the UK Times. “A limitation to understanding how visitors can affect behavior of animals in zoos and parks is that they are rarely close to the public for prolonged periods, so this provided us with a unique opportunity.” Researchers collected the data mostly during 2020, when the zoo and safari were intermittently open and closed. (Read more baboon stories.)