Dr Neil Mennie, from The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), has received funding from Ministry of Science and Technology and Innovation, Malaysia (MOSTI) to study the eye movements of Tsunami — a seven year old orangutan at The National Zoo of Malaysia (Zoo Negara). Not only will Dr Mennie’s research address vital questions about the visual cognition of humans and apes in natural tasks, it will also provide valuable enrichment for the juvenile captive-born orangutan.
Dr Mennie said: “Orangutans are particularly interesting because to survive in the treetops they must be very spatially aware of their surroundings. I hope to investigate their ability to search for food and to compare their progress with humans in 3D search and foraging tasks.
Dr Mennie, who is from the Cognitive and Sensory Systems Research Group in the School of Psychology at UNMC, is interested in how humans and apes use their brains to learn and make predictions about our surroundings. With the help of Tsunami’s keeper, Mohd Sharullizam Ramli, and the special eye tracking equipment that is worn over her head and shoulders, Dr Mennie has spent the last year recording Tsunami’s eye and body movements during the performance of complex actions such as locomotion, foraging for food and manipulation of small objects.