A food for all seasons: Stability of food preferences in gorillas across testing methods and seasons

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jennifer Vonk, Jordyn Truax, Molly C McGuire
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Decisions about which foods to use during training and enrichment for captive animals may be based on invalid assumptions about individuals’ preferences. It is important to assess the stability of food preferences given that one-time preferences are often used to inform which items are offered over a longer period of time. Presenting preference assessments using images of food items allows control over factors such as size, scent, and inadvertent cueing but requires validation. We presented three male gorillas with choices between randomly selected pairs of actual food items from their morning meal using PVC feeders. We also presented the gorillas with two-alternative forced-choice tests between images of these foods on a touchscreen computer. Ranked preferences were correlated across method and seasons. Furthermore, gorillas selected images of preferred over less preferred foods in a validation task on the touchscreen. However, selections of some food items changed within sessions, suggesting that preference may be relative to other contextual factors. Researchers should assess how choices affect subsequent preferences to understand whether animals demonstrate absolute preferences for particular food items, or prefer variety.


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