Monkeys from a zoo in Finland prefer the sounds of traffic to those of the jungle

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Although we like urbanized societies, many agree that it is healthier to live in nature. But these monkeys from Finland differ totally, as they seem to prefer the sounds of traffic to those of the jungle.

The Finnish researchers wanted to determine if the technology could improve the welfare of animals in captivity and found that primates have very noisy tastes.

Exposure to different sounds in captivity

The animals within a zoo not only have more contact with humans than in their natural habitat, but also with many technologies. And while talking about it usually has a negative connotation, experts used it to learn a little more about “civilized” animal behavior.

To do this, they installed a tunnel equipped with sensors in the monkey enclosure at the Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki. The primates were then exposed to a series of sounds: rain, traffic, Zen sounds or music to dance, and they could choose the one of their preference.

The participants were white-faced saki monkeys, relatively small primates native to countries in South America. Among them, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, part of Venezuela and northern Brazil. It should be noted that, although they are numerous, they are also a species threatened by the destruction of the tropical forest.

The perfect sound for lounging or grooming

Many would expect primates to prefer calming sounds, like Zen music, as they come from quieter habitats than humans are used to. However, to everyone’s surprise, the monkeys preferred the sounds of traffic.

“We thought they would enjoy calmer sounds, like Zen music, but they actually activated traffic sounds more,” Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, a researcher at Aalto University in Finland, told AFP.

They noticed that the monkeys slept or fixed each other inside the tunnel when what sounded were vehicles rumbling, something they did not do with any of the other sounds. According to Hirskyj-Douglas, this was a clear sign of a preference for traffic sounds.

Why do monkeys like the sound of traffic?

The zoo’s research coordinator, Kirsi Pynnonen, believes that the sounds of traffic may be similar to those made by monkeys when communicating with each other.

As many know, “in the wild, these monkeys use high-pitched whistles, screeches and croaks to keep in touch.” Animals may feel identified or find a certain similarity in the sounds of the city with those that usually exist in their environment.

The objective of these experiments is to know and understand the preferences of animals in captivity in order, in this way, to give them greater control over what they want to hear. This exposure to sounds was the first attempt, but the researchers believe they could provide additional stimuli in the future while they are at the zoo.

Meanwhile, other zoos in Europe have copied the research initiative, and will test with visual stimuli. Now they will install screens inside the tunnel for the monkeys to observe if they wish, just like humans when they turn on their television.