Ep15 Jorg Massen on animal friendships, cognition, and enrichment

2020 ibuzz podcast Oct 30, 2020

Jorg Massen, assistant professor of animal ecology at Utrecht University and editorial board member at Animals, joins us in this next episode of the iBuzz podcast. Jorg talks in-depth about a topic we can all appreciate – friendships among animals. 

He begins by sharing a bit about his background and PhD-work studying friendship in macaques, where he found that the concept of friendship between macaques is, in principle, actually the same as it is between humans in terms of how they maintain friendships and what fitness benefits (i.e. survival and reproduction) they gain from these relationships.

Jorg went on to study several different species, including chimpanzees, common marmosets, and a number of corvids. His findings suggest that some animals do make an active choice in their friendships and tend to befriend individuals with similar characteristics, likely because their behaviour is more predictable. Moreover, animals who have friends and more meaningful relationships tend to live longer, so there are tangible welfare implications for being in good company.

Additionally, Jorg discusses the field’s current methods for evaluating self-awareness, such as the mirror self-recognition test, and highlights the need for a far greater number of methods that take into consideration how various animals experience and perceive the world around them.

How can one conduct experimental research with animals without harm to welfare? Jorg always creates situations in which animals can choose to partake, but they never have to. Often, he finds these experiments are actually enriching for animals, as cognitive challenges are a crucial component of positive welfare that many animals are eager to explore.

Jorg concludes with how to apply this knowledge of animal friendships in welfare, highlighting the importance of ensuring social animals have large enough groups in which to explore relationships and choose their friends.

Learn more about Jorg on his website HERE

Listen on your favourite player or directly HERE

Become a member of PAWS HERE


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