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.