An allo-grooming device designed for socially left-out male ring-tailed lemurs.
You might be intrigued, wondering why I made a grooming machine for Ring-tailed lemurs. This was a semester-long investigation I did during my “Interaction Design in the Wild” class co-taught by Parsons School of Design and San Diego Zoo.
The goal was to research an animal and to create an intervention that would improve their welfare. Throughout my project process, I had back-and-forth conversations with lemur experts at the Duke Lemur Center, the San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo to make sure my project was fitted, meaningful and not anthropocentric.
I created a series of objects that were meant for bettering Ring-tailed lemurs lives in a zoo setting. There was the modular foraging box that mimics their probing behavior in the wild, a play-tail that mirrors their chasing behavior, and eventually, an all-grooming device that’s designed for socially left-out Ring-tailed lemurs or other similar primate species that are isolated for hospitalization or in the transition to returning to their social group.
Deriving from Ring-tailed Lemurs' natural features and grooming habits, the physiology and the functions of the device are unique to Ring-tailed Lemurs. The device has two main elements: a furry surface that produces lemur-like purring feedback and a hugging massage surface, which, in other words, is a reaction to being groomed by a male lemur and an affordance of grooming back the same lemur.
The creation and iterations of this device are supported by scientific research in Ring-tailed Lemurs' social grooming behaviors as well as by Ring-tailed Lemurs caretakers and animal experts. The All-grooming device is a design solution to a real need that many lower-ranking male ring-tailed lemurs in their female-dominant social troops are facing in the wild or a captivated environment.