Behavioural Development of Three Former Pet Chimpanzees a Decade after Arrival at the MONA Sanctuary

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Olga Feliu, Marti Masip, Carmen Maté, Sònia Sánchez-López, Dietmar Crailsheim, Elfriede Kalcher-Sommersguter
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Chimpanzees used as pets and in the entertainment industry endure detrimental living conditions from early infancy onwards. The preferred option for ending their existence as pet or circus chimpanzees is their rescue and transfer to a primate sanctuary that will provide them with optimal living and social conditions, so that they can thrive. In this case study, we had the rare opportunity to compare the activity budgets of three chimpanzees from their time as pets in 2004 to their time living at the MONA sanctuary in 2020, after almost a decade in the centre. We found their behaviour patterns changed in accordance with the sanctuaries’ rehabilitation objectives. Resting periods increased considerably while vigilance simultaneously declined sharply. Moreover, the chimpanzees’ social competence increased as allogrooming became the predominant social behaviour, and agonistic interactions diminished even though they were living within a larger social group at the sanctuary. All three chimpanzees expanded their allogrooming and proximity networks at the sanctuary, which included new group members, but they maintained the closest relationships to those conspecifics who they were rescued with. In conclusion, these findings suggest that the sanctuary environment and social group setting made it possible for these three chimpanzees to improve their social competence and increase their well-being over time.


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