Portuguese primatologist honoured in international colloquium in Lisbon

An international colloquium is being hosted on Friday in Lisbon in memory of Cláudia Sousa, a remarkable Portuguese primatologist who died from cancer last year at the age of 39.

The academic seminar at the Museu Nacional de Etnologia in Restelo is designed to “share and perpetuate the legacy” of the young university lecturer whose research showed that monkeys understand the basic principles of business. The event begins at 9.30am.

It will include a list of talks, including: “Standing on the shoulders of giants: the contribution of Cláudia Sousa for the foundation of Primate Archaeology” by Susana Carvalho (Department of Anthropology, Oxford University, UK).

This will no doubt allude to Sousa’s extraordinary field work, where she discovered that chimpanzees could grasp the use of tokens which they exchanged for food.

As director of FCSH – the faculty of human and social sciences at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa – told Público last year: “Cláudia Sousa left us an incredibly important message of love for science and enthusiasm for investigation. Even when she was very weakened by her disease, she never stopped working with contagious enthusiasm. Her scientific production was always notable”.

Sousa has been posthumously awarded the Santander prize for the internationalisation of scientific production for the last two years (2014 and 2015).

Her story, for anyone who can read Portuguese, is fascinating, and can be found in part here:

As Público explains, in Portugal you can count primatologists on the figures of one hand. Therefore for one to have made such discoveries is reason for celebration.

Earlier this year, the university created the Cláudia Sousa Memorial Fund for the advance of primatology in Portugal, and already a Porto biology graduate – Raquel Costa – is benefitting. Costa will be spending three months, all expenses paid, at a research institute and wildlife centre in Japan.

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