Meet my focal animals!

This summer, I am collecting data on chimpanzees at the North Carolina Zoo. The zoo has an online chimp guide so you can see their pictures and learn a bit about them. There are currently 12 adults and 5 immatures that are housed in two social groups. The zoo utilizes a modified fission-fusion management, in which some chimps can shift between the two groups. These chimps have diverse histories–one was raised in entertainment,and a couple others came from labs. However, for the most part, they are well-socialized and engage in typical chimp behavior.

There are so many wonderful chimps, but there’s two in particular I want to introduce. The first is little baby Gus, who was born right at the beginning of my study!

The second is Kendall.  Kendall was raised in the entertainment industry, and arrive at the NC Zoo in 2007 with limited social skills. However, he’s now successfully integrated in a social group. Although he doesn’t have the skills to safely be integrated with the males in the other groups, he’s doing well with a group of females. He’s still very human-oriented–he can be a bit of a loner, and likes to go up to the window to interact with visitors. However, he does socialize with the other chimps, occasionally grooming with the females or playing with the babies. He also does a great job of intervening when the lowest-ranking female gets picked on! He’s a great guy, and inspired The Kendall Project, which raises awareness of chimpanzees in entertainment.

Kendall. From The Kendall Project



About Dr. Michelle A. Rodrigues

I am a primatologist/biological anthropologist who studies comparative social behavior and endocrinology. My dissertation research focused on stress and friendship in female spider monkeys. Most of my graduate research was conducted at El Zota Biological Field Station, with a little help from the spider monkeys at Brookfield Zoo, IL. I have also studied howler monkeys, rhesus monkeys, bonobos, and chimpanzees, as well as participated in studies on gorillas, pachyderms, and big cats. Currently, I am a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois, where I am examining how female friendship and social support mediate stressors experienced by teenager girls and female scientists. I've taught courses in introductory biological anthropology, world prehistory, and co-instructed a field course in primate behavior and conservation at El Zota. I love teaching about primates and evolution!
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