, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 479-499

Social Learning and Primate Reintroduction

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Abstract

Research on social learning may be of use in the conservation of primates, especially great apes, through (a) promoting their public image, (b) identifying specific adaptations, and (c) devising reintroduction training programs. We surveyed all the instigated social learning studies in primates published since 1950 in order to assess their usefulness to devise reintroduction training programs. We identified 99 publications containing 130 data sets from 27 species of primates. Great apes produced significantly more positive social learning effects than either cercopithecines or cebids. There was also an enhanced social learning effect when skilled demonstrators were used. Our survey indicates that the scientific understanding of many aspects of primate social learning relevant to conservation, including its function, learning spatial route plotting, food and sleeping site location, predator avoidance and detection, and the effect of model and tutee status, would benefit from greater research. Future instigated studies on primate social learning would be most informative for reintroduction if they included ecologically valid tasks presented to ≥2 similarly composed social groups, one of which functioned as a control, i.e., without being exposed to a model.