Dr Johanna Neufuss PhD

Dr Johanna Neufuss

School of Biosciences
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Contact details

Dr Johanna Neufuss is a Biological Anthropologist and Primatologist working on improving the wellbeing and conservation value of captive great apes. Over the last 8 years she has studied the functional anatomy, locomotion and cognition of great apes extensively and has worked in the wild, sanctuaries and zoos.


  • MSc (Dist)
  • PhD


Dr Johanna Neufuss completed her PhD at the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK) in 2017, in which she looked at the functional morphology and hand use behaviours of African apes in their complex natural habitats. Dr Neufuss started at the university of Birmingham in 2018 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working on the welfare of captive chimpanzees in zoos and sanctuaries. Together with colleagues in the School of Biosciences she has developed on an Enclosure Design Tool for chimpanzee sanctuaries to encourage the natural behavioural profiles needed for optimum wellbeing and to ensure sanctuaries can successfully prepare their chimpanzees for life back in the wild. Giving her experiences in translating research knowledge into practical solutions to improve captive great ape care, Johanna is currently working in partnership with BIAZA and the Great Ape Welfare Group. In this joint initiative, she provides an up-to-date assessment of great ape facilities and husbandry in the UK/Ireland and a systematic review of welfare literature to generate evidence-based best practice guidelines and improved welfare outcomes for captive great apes.


Dr Johanna Neufuss research applies an integrative and comparative behavioural, ecological, morphological and biomechanical approach to understand the association between the morphology of great apes and the behaviours they perform in the complex forest environment. She is particularly interested in the relationship with the natural environment and how this shapes the evolution of the systems observed. Another element of Johanna’s research is her strong interest in great ape behaviour in captivity as well as understanding the link between zoo great ape welfare and the quality of science.

Other activities

Member of the Great Ape Welfare Group (GAWg)


Neufuss J, Robbins MM, Baeumer J, Humle T, Kivell TL. (2018). Manual skills for food processing by mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Neufuss J, Robbins MM, Baeumer J, Humle T, Kivell TL. (2018). Characteristics of vertical climbing in mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. Journal of Zoology. 306: 129-138.

Neufuss J, Robbins MM, Baeumer J, Humle T, Kivell TL. (2017). Comparison of  hand use and forelimb posture of vertical climbing in mountain gorillas  and chimpanzees. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 164: 651-664.

Neufuss J, Humle T, Cremaschi A, Kivell TL. (2017). Nut-cracking behaviour in wild-born, rehabilitated bonobos (Pan paniscus):  a comprehensive study of hand-preference, hand grips and efficiency. American Journal of Primatology. 79: 1-16

Behringer V, Stevens JMG, Kivell TL, Neufuss J, Boesch C, Hohmann G. (2016). Within Arm’s Reach: Measuring Forearm Length to Assess Growth Patterns in Captive Bonobos and Chimpanzees. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 161:37-43.

Neufuss J, Hesse B, Thorpe SKS, Vereecke EE, D’Aout KD, Fischer MS, Schilling N. (2014). Fibre type composition in the lumbar perivertebral muscles of primates: Implications for the evolution of orthogrady in hominoids. Journal of Anatomy. 224:113-31.