In many facilities, primates are voluntarily transferred between different enclosures on a daily basis to facilitate animal husbandry and exhibit maintenance. This procedure is particularly relevant in the management of great apes living in zoos, where the requirements of functional management must be balanced with the desire to maintain enriching and naturalistic exhibit enclosures that benefit ape residents and attract the visiting public. In these settings, examinations of ape behavior and welfare typically focus exclusively on activity in the primary exhibit area. However, physical, social and sensory experiences unique to each area may shape different patterns of behavior. In the current study, zoo-living chimpanzees and gorillas were moved each day from exhibit areas to off-exhibit holding areas for a short duration as a part of regular management procedures. Behavioral data indicated species-specific reactions to the holding area, including increased aggression and self-directed behavior by chimpanzees and increased activity and prosocial behavior among gorilla subjects. Both species showed more feeding-foraging behavior while in the exhibit enclosure. Results suggest that holding areas may not meet all behavior needs of captive great apes and demonstrate the importance of including all components of the captive enclosure in comprehensive analyses of great ape behavior and welfare.