Zoo Monkeys Prefer Traffic Noise Over Soothing Sounds, Study Reveals

The noise is said to mimic their natural cries in the wild.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Researchers attempting to make life better for zoo monkeys stumbled upon a rather interesting piece of information. It turns out that these captive animals seem to prefer traffic noise compared to other more soothing sounds, reported AFP.


Scientists exposed monkeys from Korkeasaari Zoo Helsinki, Finland to rain, traffic, zen sounds, and dance music and noted their preferences. "We thought they would enjoy more calming sounds, such as zen music, but actually they triggered the traffic sounds more," Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, a researcher at Finland's Aalto University, told AFP.

The noises were played in a tunnel and the primates chose traffic noise to sleep and groom themselves and one another inside the tunnel. Although this may seem surprising at first, there is a natural explanation for it.

The zoo's research coordinator, Kirsi Pynnonen, told AFP the monkeys' preference might be related to the fact that road noise sounds familiar to some of the animals' natural cries in the wild.

"In the wild, these monkeys use high-pitched hissing, squeaking, and croaking to stay in contact," she said. These noises may be mimicked by traffic sounds.

The researchers now say the experiment could be repeated with other stimuli. "Animals could, for instance, control their lighting, heat, or the temperature," Hirskyj-Douglas said. "The technology is very much open and we're just starting to bridge into this area."

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In the meantime, Pynnonen added that other zoos in Europe have expressed interest in the research and future experiments may include adding large screens to the animals' enclosures to test their viewing preferences. 

The animals chosen for this particular experiment were white-faced saki monkeys from the northern countries of South America which are currently threatened by the destruction of the rainforest. It's good to know they have a safe and comfortable refuge in these zoos.