Human Zoo: Research project puts humans on display as a means to promote conservation and improve living conditions

In an interesting and bold research move in Australia, dubbed the Human Zoo, humans have been put on display at the Adelaide Zoo. Dr. Carla Litchfield, a lecturer in psychology at the University of South Australia, will be monitoring her volunteers as they are housed in an unused orangutan enclosure for about a month. Groups of six are housed in the enclosure for a week at a time… including Dr. Litchfield.

The daily activities range from enrichment activities to veterinary check-ups, with visits from special guests (“Zoo-loopers”) on the weekends. Footage is available via web cam from Saturday through Thursday 9:30am to 5pm (Central Australian Daylight Time).

The project is intended to raise awareness about primate conservation, while the findings are intended to be a means to improve living conditions for captive apes. I must admit, I was a little surprised to see this research getting a chance to happen (I’m picturing the dozens of zoo meetings and mountains of IRB paperwork right now) and jealous that I am not a part of the research team collecting and analyzing the data. While comparative studies of life in a zoo versus life in a penitentiary are interesting, this project (however limited it is in time) puts humans in the same seat as the captive non-human primates from which we are learning so much. Hopefully this will go as planned and in the end, serve as a way to improve the quality of life for not just non-human primates, but all captive animals.

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