Robot gorilla ‘spy’ captures the first footage of Silverbacks in Uganda singing for their supper

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A pack of Silverback Mountain gorillas in Uganda were caught for the first time on camera performing a supper serenade. Filmmakers captured the unique ritual by placing a robotic ‘spy’ that resembles a young gorilla deep in the jungle


A pack of Silverback Mountain gorillas in Uganda were caught for the first time on camera performing a supper serenade. 

Filmmakers captured the unique ritual by placing a robotic ‘spy’ that resembles a young gorilla deep in the jungle.

The team designed the animatronic machine with realistic eye movements, as wild gorillas communicate with each other through eye contact, and a submissive demeanor with the hopes it would be accepted by the pack.

Along with the singing, the footage shows the gorillas screamed a ‘chorus of appreciation’ while eating and provided evidence that they are extremely gassy.

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A pack of Silverback Mountain gorillas in Uganda were caught for the first time on camera performing a supper serenade. Filmmakers captured the unique ritual by placing a robotic ‘spy’ that resembles a young gorilla deep in the jungle

The segments is part of the PBS series ‘Nature: Spy in the Wild 2,’ which follows animals in their natural habit using robotic replicas.

Matt Gordon, one of the show’s producers, told PBS: ‘The process of building the spies is complex and varied depending on what animal and behavior that we are trying to film.’

‘Spy gorilla, one of the stars of the show, is a good example to use in describing the process of building them.

‘Firstly, we need to work out what spy animals would be best to film the animal.

Mountain gorillas have been caught on camera as they 'sing' during their supper, a behavior that has never before been documented on video. The segments is part of the PBS series 'Nature: Spy in the Wild 2,' which follows animals in their natural habit using robotic replicas

Mountain gorillas have been caught on camera as they ‘sing’ during their supper, a behavior that has never before been documented on video. The segments is part of the PBS series ‘Nature: Spy in the Wild 2,’ which follows animals in their natural habit using robotic replicas

‘So for example, it would not be a good idea to make a spy Silverback Mountain gorilla, as this could be seen as too much of a threat to the real mountain gorillas.

‘Therefore, we went with a baby gorilla.’

Gordon and his team, who are biologists and zoologists, set out to make the robot as realistic as possible in order for it to be accepted by the pack.

And they determined the eyes were key to making this happen.

‘Mountain gorillas learn a lot from each other by staring into each other’s eyes,’ said Gordon.

‘Therefore, we designed the spy gorilla to be able to close and move his eyes so that when necessary, he could avert his gaze to show respect to the real gorillas.’

The robot spy was also designed to beat on its chest, which allowed the filmmakers to capture a glimpse into how young primates interact.

The wild gorillas were fooled into thinking the robot was a real gorilla and excepted it into their pack

The wild gorillas were fooled into thinking the robot was a real gorilla and excepted it into their pack

The team was able to capture a rare moment that would have been impossible using traditional techniques – a baby gorilla ran up to the robot and began beating its chest in a playful manner.

Along with producing tuneful calls and deep hums while eating, the video also shows that these creatures pass gas while eating

Researchers have known about older gorillas singing during dinner since 2016, but the footage captured by Gordon and his team is the first to it has been seen.

The evidence was taken using recorders of the gorillas, which reveal males tended to sing most when they were enjoying aquatic plants, flowers and seeds, which are considered to be favorite foods.

The team designed the animatronic machine with realistic eye movements, as wild gorillas communicate with each other through eye contact, and a submissive demeanor with the hopes it would be accepted by the pack

The team designed the animatronic machine with realistic eye movements, as wild gorillas communicate with each other through eye contact, and a submissive demeanor with the hopes it would be accepted by the pack

Researchers have known about older gorillas singing during dinner since 2016, but the footage captured by Gordon and his team is the first to it has been seen

Researchers have known about older gorillas singing during dinner since 2016, but the footage captured by Gordon and his team is the first to it has been seen

Writing in the journal Public Library of Science One, Dr Eva Maria Luef, from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, and her team said: ‘Alternatively, sense of well-being in general may elicit food associated call vocalizations in gorillas.

‘The fact that specific foods elicited more calling and simultaneous calling of multiple individuals may indicate that attitude toward, and possibly contentment over, the food source plays some role in the production of food-associated calling in gorillas.

‘Food-associated calling could be an expression of well-being in gorillas when feeding on specific, preferred foods.’

This suggests male gorillas may simply be reassuring others in their group that they are happy with the meal they have found.

 



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