Thursday, 1 June 2017

Tourists risk animal bites by misreading wild monkey facial expressions as 'kisses'

Date: May 31, 2017
Source: University of Lincoln

Wildlife tourists frequently fail to identify aggressive and distressed emotional states in wild monkeys -- mistaking animals' warnings of aggression for 'smiles' and 'kisses' -- and this can lead to welfare problems for primates and risk of injury for people, according to new research.

A new study by a team of behavioural ecologists and psychologists examined whether educational tools intended to help tourists recognise different facial expressions in monkeys -- such as 2D images and information signs like those found in zoos or animal parks -- were effective in reducing harm to humans and distress to primates in destinations where wild macaques freely interact with humans.

The researchers found that tourists made significant mistakes in interpreting macaques' emotions -- such as believing a monkey was 'smiling' or 'blowing them kisses' when they were in fact displaying aggression -- despite exposure to pictures designed to demonstrate what the animals' facial expressions mean.

This level of misunderstanding could lead to increased risk of injury to humans and have a negative impact on the welfare on the animals, particularly in places where wild macaques interact with people, the study concluded.


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