Veronica Cowl

Conservation Scholar

BSc Zoology (Hons) - University of Manchester, UK, 2014
PhD Animal Biology - University of Manchester, ongoing

I started my collaboration with Chester Zoo while working on my MPhil in Animal Biology from the University of Manchester. This research focused on assessing Chester Zoo’s group of Sulawesi macaques and how environmental and social changes affect behaviour.

During my MPhil, I also started working at Chester Zoo as the programme coordinator for the EAZA Group on Zoo Animal Contraception (EGZAC).  After successfully converting my MPhil into a PhD, my research now has a broader focus on primate behaviour in zoos. I am investigating the differences in agonism (survivalist animal behaviour) between zoo primates and populations in the wild, assessing the various aspects that impact natural aggressive behaviours. Conflict is a huge part of living within a primate society; determining various aspects of their day to day life including resource distribution, reproductive success, and their social hierarchy. To mediate levels of agonism, primates have developed various social strategies such as:

  • Policing - where high ranking individuals either prevent the conflict entirely, or intervene in an ongoing conflict.
  • Reconciliation.
  • Kin biases - some primate societies form hierarchies based on relatedness, where all offspring (particularly female offspring) related to the alpha female will automatically win in conflicts. 

Using the knowledge I am gaining as the EGZAC programme coordinator, I will also be assessing the efficacy of various contraceptive methods used to manage hormone mediated aggression.

Project partners

University of Manchester logo


Cowl, VB, Shultz, S. (2017_ Large brains and groups associated with high rates of agonism in primates. Behavioral Ecology. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arx041


Dr Keith Jensen (Division of Human Communication, Development & Hearing, The University of Manchester)

Dr Susanne Shultz (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester)

Dr Sue Walker (Chester Zoo)

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