Animal Behaviour – Chimpanzee case study

In Animal Behaviour – chimpanzee case study, students will explore the reasons why we consider certain animals “intelligent” or “not intelligent”, and the theories surrounding how animals learn. They will discover how ZSL uses the science of learning behaviours to benefit animal welfare at the zoo – including the opportunity to find out about our Chimpanzee programmes.                                             

Chimpanzee at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Key Stage: Post 16

Duration: 60 Minutes

Capacity: 35 students


National Curriculum/Specification Links (from September 2015):

AQA Psychology

3.2.1 Approaches in psychology

  • Learning approaches: the behaviourist approach, including classical conditioning and Pavlov’s research, operant conditioning, types of reinforcement and Skinner’s research

Edexcel Psychology AS/A2

Topic 4: Learning Theory

  • 4.1.1 The main features of classical conditioning, including: unconditioned stimulus (UCS); unconditioned response (UCR); conditioned stimulus (CS); neutral stimulus (NS); conditioned response (CR)
  • 4.1.3 The main features of operant conditioning, including: types of reinforcement and punishment (positive and negative).


Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Collect behavioural data.
  • Give examples of different species learning ability.
  • Demonstrate the different behaviours that can be assessed.
  • Discuss how ZSL uses operant conditioning to benefit the welfare of the chimpanzees at the Zoo.
  • 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.
  • Download our pre-visit sheet: PDF icon Pre-visit sheet - Animal Behaviour Chimpanzee Case Study (322.53 KB)


While at the Zoo:

  • 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 Giraffe – try and follow one animal for 5 minutes in each of these enclosures


Link to session


Ring tailed lemur

Behaviour study

Base camp – in with the lemurs

African penguin

Behaviour study

Right of Europe

Reticulated Giraffe

Behaviour study



After your visit:

  • 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.



Prepare for your Animal Behaviour - Chimpanzee Case Study with our information pack:

PDF icon Pre-visit sheet - Animal Behaviour Chimpanzee Case Study (322.53 KB)