Simona Cafazzo

Project at the WSC Conflict management in wolves and dogs: domestication effect
With us since November 2012
Favourite animal at the WSC Nanuk, Binti

I came to the WSC as a postdoc in November 2012. The main topic of my research concerns the management of social conflicts in dogs and wolves. I am really interested in the understanding, whether dogs and wolves are able to avoid certain conflict situations and whether they use specific tactics for reconciliation, if the conflict was unpreventable. And I also curious, whether after a conflict between two animals a third animal (in the conflict not involved one) tries to solve the conflict - as seen sometimes in man.

I am from Italy and studied biology in Rome, where I finished my master with the master thesis on the behaviour of urban half-wild cats (Felis silvestris lybica). For my doctorate at the Department for Behavioural biology of the University of Parma/Italy I investigated the social organization and territory pattern of a group of free running dogs in the suburban space of Rome. My experiences in the investigation of feral pets have drew my interest to the evolutionary mechanisms, which are the basics of many aspects of the social behaviour.

Actually it's not for the first time that I am at the WSC. I met Dr. Zsófia Virányi and Dr. Friederike Range in 2008 during a conference in Budapest. They were interested in my presentation of the social organization of feral dogs. During the following discussion I pointed out, that I would like to participate in their research group, to come to the WSC and to study wolves and dogs. Since then we stayed in continuous contact and in 2010 I spent three weeks at the WSC. It was a very special time for me, i got acquainted to the place, the people and the animals and got my first chance to watch wolves. I was absolutely fascinated by them in particular by Nanuk. He was the first wolf, who licked my hand and his being such friendla and gentle was and unforgettable moment for me. At falling asleep and at awaking to hear the howling of the wolves was also an feeling, I can't describe, it just was unique.

From then on I started enthusiastically with my work on the project of "conflict management". I got an allowance - the "Exchange visit grant" of the Comparative Cognition Network and thus had the chance to stay for further two months at the WSC to perform a pre-study about pre-conflict and post-conflict strategis of dogs. That was an essential time for my studies, which has improved my research project. Besides I became fond af all of the dogs during this time. Binti, however, is the most special for me, perhaps because she reminds me to a dog of the wild-living dog pack of my doctorate thesis.

Now, in autumn 2012, I'm excited again to start this new adventure! I shall stay here for the next one to two years and guess already now, how much I'll learn from man and animal!