Conservation

Understanding the cognitive abilities of animals and how they use these capacities to solve daily problems of finding guage symbols and demonstrating numerical competence. The opportunity to observe an animal using complex cognitive abilities to solve a problem not only informs visitors of the capabilities of great apes, it also serves to illustrate the importance of preserving animals with such complex minds.

A chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) uses a stick to get termites in Sweet-waters Reserve, Kenya. (Photo by Mary Beth Angelo/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

food, evading predators, avoiding other physical dangers, and reproducing can provide important information for conservation. As habitat destruction continues to threaten the existence of many animal species, the more information available about ecology and behavior, the more informed can be plans for delaying extinction. The design and location of protected reserves relies on understanding needs of those animals being protected. Such understanding is also vital to promote the welfare of those individuals who are housed in captivity, regardless of their endangered status. Providing captive animals with cognitive enrichment by challenging their cognitive skills contributes to their psychological well-being.

Finally, as we understand more about the cognitive complexity of the animals we are attempting to preserve, the importance of ensuring their survival is apparent. These three reasons for studying animal cognition (scientific curiosity, understanding evolution, and conservation) are exemplified by the Think Tank exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution National Zoological Park. This exhibit, which opened in 1995, is dedicated to the topic of animal thinking. As the first exhibit of its kind in any zoo or public forum, Think Tank combines basic research with cognitive enrichment for captive animals while educating the public about the cognitive complexity of animals. Daily live demonstrations of data collection with orangutans (Pongo spp.) show zoo visitors how orangutans solve complex problems such as acquiring lan-

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