New Zealand academics rediscover the joy of kea research
Can animals experience joy? Thanks to a $1m funding grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation an international team of researchers, including University of Canterbury (UC) Associate Professor Ximena Nelson, hope to find out.
Though the concept of joy is not unique to humans, this study could have significant implications for animal welfare and ethics.
While the Scottish and American researchers will be working with Dolphins and Apes, including bonobos and chimps, Associate Professor Nelson and Dr Taylor’s work will focus on our native Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot and a species well-known for their unique social attributes.
“Many New Zealanders will be familiar with the kea as cheeky, but few will realise how remarkably intelligent they are,” Associate Professor Nelson says. “Their cognitive ability is similar or better than many primate species, or humans up to the age of four.”
Over the course of her career, Associate Professor Nelson has seen many examples of the kea’s social abilities – their fledglings are raised by adults in ‘crèches’ and they play and roll around like children. It’s this social aspect she believes facilitates both play and joy in the species.