Chimp Intelligence

In Chimpanzee Intelligence students take part in a real behaviour study, from collecting to analysing the behaviour. Students discover how complex chimpanzees are as a species from their social structure to how they communicate. Students uncover how data is transformed into practical applications and used in the zoo.


Age group:  KS 4 and 5 (Age 14 – 18)

Duration:  45 minutes

Capacity:  35

Learning Space:  Chimpanzee Enclosure

Framework links:

  • Psychology (AQA):

3.3 Simple learning (classical and operant conditioning) and its role in the behaviour of non-human animals.

Intelligence in non-human animals, for example, self-recognition, social learning, Machiavellian intelligence

  • Psychology (EDEXCEL):

2.5 1b Define and use psychological terminology appropriately and accurately including the terms classical conditioning, operant conditioning, social learning, stimulus and response.

  • Biology (OCR):

5.4.3d describe habituation, imprinting, classical and operant conditioning, latent and insight learning as examples of learned behaviours

  • Physical Education (AQA):

3.1 Learning theories – operant conditioning, positive and negative reinforcement and punishment

  • Physical Education (OCR):

3.1 B. Learning skills in physical activity: the associationalist/connectionist theory of operant conditioning (Skinner) discuss positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment (with examples from candidate’s practical activities)

  • Mathematics:

Promoting fluency in maths when comparing the brain ratios of different species. 

  • Vocabulary Development:

Encouraging students to use and explore scientific language when discussing the intelligence of different species of animals


Intended learning outcomes:

  • Students will collect behavioural data
  • Students will be able to give examples of different species of animals displaying high intelligence.
  • Students will demonstrate the different behaviours that can be assessed
  • Students will discuss operant conditioning and how we use this to benefit the welfare of the chimpanzees at the zoo
  • Students will demonstrate how we use the data collected into applying changes in the zoo


For this session

Before your visit:

  • Debate how students would measure an animal’s intelligence and give a few examples. Relate this to human intelligence.
  • Investigate some animal behaviour including some examples of the different studies carried out about chimpanzee language and learning.

While at the Zoo:

  • Go to the Chimpanzee Talk at the zoo to learn about chimpanzees and their complex social structure.
  • At the silvery marmoset enclosure note all behaviours, compare these to the observations at   the chimpanzees.
  • As students to list the different complications which a behaviour study might encounter when studying different animals – eg. Ring tailed lemurs, penguins and elephants


Animal Location (map ref.)
Ring-tailed lemur Walk with the lemurs 3D
Silvery marmosets 3C
Sea Lion  Sea Lion Splash 3C
Pengiun E2
Asian Elephant B4


Post-visit resources:

How do you think animal training is used within the zoo? Have a debate about uses of animal training within animal collections, and how it affects the animals, zoo staff and the visiting public.

Plan a behaviour study of a primate – logistics, training, ethograms, budgets – investigate the planning involved in collecting data in the field and in a zoo.

The Great Ape Project: Equality beyond Humanity 

Peter Singer (Editor), Paola Cavalieri (Editor)

  • Think about the chimpanzees that you have observed at the zoo. Have a class debate about the topic in the above book. The author proposes that chimpanzees and the other great apes are such intelligent thinking beings that they should be given the same civil rights and status as humans.