Alpaca and human communication: A cross-species journey
The Australian National University’s Dr Susanne O’Donovan has been looking into the possible link between Alpacas and human language and has published a paper describing how a pair of alpaca monkeys, named Alpama and Alyssa, communicate with one another using their paws.
They call each other “titty” and “moo” and sometimes “cuddle”.
She says the research highlights the fact that it is possible to have a close, social, and even intimate relationship with animals, which can have benefits for people.
The study published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, describes the Alpamas interactions with their owners, a couple in Sydney, who live in a property where they raise and feed the animals. “
In many cases, the gestures may be subtle and often seem out of place, such as in a petting zoo.”
The study published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, describes the Alpamas interactions with their owners, a couple in Sydney, who live in a property where they raise and feed the animals.
It says that when the pair first came into contact, the Alpacas were in the process of a routine feeding ritual, where they would lick each other’s paws.
The Alpamas are normally playful and playmates to the dogs.
But after a few minutes, the owners noticed that their pet dogs were looking up at the sky and were making eye contact with the two alpacas, who were playing with them.
They thought it might be a sign that the Alpodas had come home.
“They didn’t know if it was a good sign or not, so they started scratching the paws of the two Alpamias,” Dr O\’Donnell said.
The researchers then followed the dogs and the Alpadas for about two weeks.
The study found that the dogs interacted with the Alpais in different ways, sometimes making eye-contact, but more often rubbing their paws together and scratching.
The owners also noticed that the two dogs tended to look at the two other dogs more than at the Alpakas, although there were no other obvious differences.
“When you look at it from an animal perspective, you realise that these are really close animals, and you realise how they interact and they have an emotional connection,” Dr McDonough said.
“It’s really interesting to see that the interaction between the dogs is different to that between the Alpas and the humans.”
The researchers are currently analysing the interactions between the two animals to understand how they developed their language, and they plan to try to breed a pair.
Alpacama are naturally social animals and they are also known to be highly intelligent and cooperative, Dr McDONOUGH said.
However, the study shows that the way they interact with one other could have a profound impact on human language development.
“We know from other studies that when we try to learn a new language, we tend to pick up on the gestures and the behaviours of the other person,” Dr McMurtrie said.
Alyssabox is currently being raised by her owner in a zoo in Perth.
“She is really intelligent, she can read our language and understand us,” the couple’s neighbour, Sarah Blyth, told ABC Perth.
Dr Mcdonough says the study provides some exciting evidence for the idea that animals may be able to understand human language, but that further research is needed to confirm the idea.
She says it is likely that the interactions they observe between the animals are just one of many examples of communication between species.
Dr Macdonough said she was interested in learning more about how these relationships develop, and what the future holds for these animals.
“I think that this work is really important because we know from studies in the wild that animals can recognise human language,” Dr MacDONOUGH told ABC Radio Perth.