Yamanashi, Y., Hitoosa, K., Yoshida, N. et al. 2022. Do chimpanzees enjoy a virtual forest? A pilot investigation of the use of interactive art as a form of environmental enrichment for zoo-housed chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology 84(10), e23343.

Environmental enrichment is essential for the well-being of zoo animals. Recent advances in sensor and video technologies may contribute to improvements in enrichment in terms of their flexibilities and time constraints. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether interactive movie art can be used as a form of environmental enrichment. We implemented interactive movies designed by a professional artist, a visual art aiming to reflect naturalistic forest habitat, in an indoor chimpanzee enclosure at Kyoto City Zoo in Japan. Motion-tracking sensors embedded in buoys were installed at several locations around the indoor enclosure; the chimpanzees could change the movie contents by physically interacting with these objects. We recorded behaviors by observing entire troop of chimpanzees (six) between March 16 and 20, 2020 (control condition), then recorded behaviors when the interactive movie was presented (experimental condition) between March 21 and 29, 2020. Behaviors were recorded via direct observations and video recordings to examine any changes after the installation of interactive art. The chimpanzees spent more time in the indoor enclosures during the experimental condition than during the control condition. Activity budgets did not change substantially during the study period. There was no evidence of habituation to the movie during the study period. Three chimpanzees, including two young chimpanzees, interacted with the movie more frequently than the others; these young chimpanzees occasionally showed playful expressions when interacting with the movie and exhibited different reactivities to the movie scenes. These results demonstrate, first, that the interactive art did not negatively affect chimpanzee behavior, and second, that some of the chimpanzees indeed showed positive responses to the art. This study, therefore, introduces a novel possibility for environmental enrichment in zoos, involving a collaboration between science and art.