The Neophilia task

Lou Gonnet (Interns)



I applied for an internship at the Wolf Science Center to write a master thesis. Here I am today with the whole team carrying out the Neophilia task! The aim of this experiment is to see how the wolves and dogs react to new things and to compare them. This will allow us to understand how the two species have evolved from their common ancestor knowing that they are living in different environments.

To do so, we have built various objects and paint them in different colours. After one month of construction, it was a real pleasure to begin the adventure! We are now presenting the objects to the animals to see their choice and their reaction.

If you were wondering, yes, it is a challenge to get the wolves out of the enclosure to be able to place the objects, especially when they had dinner the same day or the day before! If they don’t want to cooperate, you just have to wait or you have to find a plan B.

It has been three weeks since we have begun, and for now we can observe different behaviours from the wolves and dogs during the habituation phase. For example, Nanuk was very interested in the first item we presented to him. He loved to rub his head on it, but he also liked to play with it: he even grabbed it to take it away. On the other hand, we have Taima and Tekoa that were scared from the beginning to the end of the habituation. Indeed, Tekoa did not approach it at all except once when he forgot that the object was actually here. When he did realise that it was still there, he made a huge jump to move away. Taima on the other hand, was avoiding it at first and then didn’t care anymore, but was still not approaching it more than 1 meter.

For the dogs, Hiari enjoyed urinating on it and Imara was very interested by the smell…of the paint or the pee…we will never know!

I am looking forward to the results of the tests to finally discover how they react, if they will be interested in the object, and especially to see if they have fun during this task.