Dr. Lauren Highfill, Eckerd College, will continue her study on personality traits in lemurs this year at the Myakka City Lemur Reserve. With the help of two Eckerd students, Ashley Chambers and Christine Dumbleton, they will continue to observer the lemurs during normal daily activity and during training sessions to code the personality traits of the lemurs. The students will also present the lemurs with various food baited puzzle boxes to test the lemurs’ learning rates and problem-solving abilities.
Animal personality research offers a number of both practical and theoretical benefits. Examining individual differences enables animal caretakers to better understand and predict the behavior of animals. Moreover, understanding individual differences can directly benefit the animals. Zoos and reserves can more effectively manage animals and maintain their welfare if they can consider the specific characteristics of the individuals.
For example, ensuring inter-individual compatibility in group housing may serve to ensure the safety of the whole group. Knowledge of personality types can aid in a variety of animal management techniques, such as breeding and reintroduction programs. Dr. Highfill’s recent research with small-eared bushbabies indicated that personality measures could be used as a tool for evaluating the effectiveness of environmental enrichment plans for individual animals. This study examined the relationship between personality traits and reduced stereotypy after five different enrichment interventions in small-eared bushbabies. Her results indicated that some enrichment interventions were better suited for certain personality types.
To date, the personality traits of lemurs have not been extensively studied. A better understanding of personality traits in captive lemurs could be extremely beneficial to husbandry staff. As mentioned above, understanding personality can aid in a number of husbandry procedures, such as reducing conflict among group members and individualizing environmental enrichment interventions.
We are happy to have Dr. Highfill and her students join us at the reserve for another year and we look forward to compiling and interpreting the results.
– Patricia Walsh, LCF Director of Research and Operations