Congratulations to Mariska Kret, who has been awarded the European Research Council Public Engagement with Research Awards 2022 for her project ‘RecognizeYourself – Bringing science to the zoo. Involving the public into the study of great apes emotions’.
In the project, the main outreach activity is that human participants such as zoo visitors can conduct the same tasks as apes do. They can feel what that is like and also compare their performance to theirs. Since recently, visitors of Ouwehands Dierenpark can watch the orangutans perform these tasks and directly interact with the researchers standing around. What Mariska Kret has noticed is that zoo visitors are amused or shocked to see that at some tasks, apes outperform humans.
When asked on the importance of winning the award, Mariska Kret replied: ‘The award raises more publicity and also increases the credibility of my research. It shows me, my team, and the general public that we are on the right track. More publicity is more awareness about apes capacities, and this is highly needed. The next crucial step obviously, is to turn this knowledge into conservation activities. Because due to us, all ape species are nearly extinct in the wild and experts agree that if nothing changes, there will be no wild apes at all anymore in a future that is very near.’
In the video below, Mariska Kret shares her tips on engaging with the public: