In a first, Japanese scientists have used a computer programme and a touch screen device to encourage a paralysed chimpanzee to walk again, showing that euthanasia need not be the only option for animals injured in captivity .

Jpam Researchers of the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University in Japan used chimpanzees' interaction with computers and touch screens to study the cognition and perception of these primates.

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When Reo, a male chimpanzee, was paralysed from the neck down, dedicated staff put this technology to further use by encouraging the animal to walk again. This is the first case in which a paralysed chimpanzee has been rehabilitated through such a dedicated programme.

In 2006, a portion of 24-year-old Reo's spinal cord became inflamed. For the first 10 months thereafter, Reo could not move. He gradually recovered enough to sit up, and could later pull himself upright by using suspended ropes. After intensive physiotherapy for over a period of 41months, Reo was able to climb again using only his arms.

To aid Reo's integration back among the 12 other ani back among the 12 other animals held at the institute, his carers decided to try to get him walking again. They incorporated a computerised task for this process as Reo had earlier learnt how to perform cognitive tasks on a touch panel, and in doing so had become used to receiving food rewards whenever he succeeded at tasks presented to him.

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A computer-controlled monitor was therefore placed on one wall, and cognitive tasks were again put to him. It was not plain sailing at first, and the research team had to adapt their ideas seven times before they received any cooperation from Reo.

Thereafter, whenever he completed a task successfully , a food reward was placed on a tray on the opposite side of the room. This meant that Reo had to move at least two metres to reach it. For a new task, he had to make the two-metre return journey.

At first he did so using a rope for assistance, but gradually he started travelling in an upright seated position which resembled the side-to-side manner of a penguin walking on land. The rehabilitation sessions encouraged him to increase his movements considerably , and he started walking up to 500 metres in a two-hour session.