Music has no effect on chimps‚ study finds

05 April 2017 - 14:58 By Tanya Farber
Image: iStock

Human beings love nothing more than spotting their own behaviour mirrored in animals.

That’s why earlier studies suggesting chimps liked classical music was a source of much delight.

Now‚ a new study from the University of York has burst the bubble.

The team investigated how classic and pop or rock music affected the behaviour of chimps at the Edinburgh Zoo “to establish if it impacted positively or negatively on their welfare”.

The chimps were also given a ‘chimpanzee jukebox’ where they could choose works by Mozart‚ Justin Bieber‚ Adele‚ Bruno Mars‚ Beethoven and many others.

But‚ according to a statement by lead researcher Dr Emma Wallace‚ “The combined results of these studies show that neither classical nor pop/rock music has a positive effect on the welfare of these chimpanzees. They also did not show any consistent or persistent preferences for either type of music or silence”.

She added that the results support recent findings that zoo-housed orangutans were unable to distinguish music from “digitally scrambled noise”.

She said the results show music has neither a positive nor negative effect on the chimps‚ and also “highlight the possibility that music appreciation is something that is a uniquely human trait.”

For those who might be disappointed by this fact‚ the research comes hot on the heels of another case study that showed a very human ritual taking place among chimps in Zambia.

For the first time‚ a chimp was captured on film using tools to clean the corpse of a dead loved one.


Noel‚ a female chimp at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in Zambia‚ sat next to the body of Thomas‚ her adopted son.

She then plucked a stem of firm grass from the ground and began to clean his teeth – even after the rest of the troupe lost interest and walked off.

“The report is important because it indicates once more that the human species is not the only one capable of compassion‚” chimp researcher Edwin van Leeuwen told New Scientist.

Perhaps Mozart’s Requiem would have completed the scene?

- TMG Digital/The Times