Science - May 13, 2004

Classical music makes baboons romantic

The baboons in Almere benefited from classical music that was played to them for a few days. Their normal behaviour shows that they are frustrated and often have little contact with each other. Piano music seems to work wonders though. The apes were visibly less frustrated and comforted each other.

“The baboons become more sociable; they greet each other more often and check each other for fleas,” says biology student Inge Marks. She and fellow-student Marloes van der Goot examined the effect of music on eight baboons in a care centre of Stichting Aap for their internship. “We let the baboons hear piano music and other quiet music from the radio to see if it reduced stereotype behaviour, and also whether it made things pleasanter for the carers. It’s not yet clear how the music works. It could be that it masks other background noise such as cleaning or other apes. It could be though that the rhythm calms the baboons.”

The students would have liked to be able to report that the baboons not only became more sociable, but that they also gave up stereotype behaviour, but this was not the case. Only one ape stopped pacing up and down, but instead she started looking for fleas. Another even started pacing more, but licked his arm less excessively than before. Some baboons became more aggressive on hearing the classical music before they calmed down.

Stichting Aap was happy with the research, as it is the first time that any research has been done with their apes. They will be playing classical music for their baboons from time to time.

Hugo Bouter

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