Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in US zoos, sanctuaries, and research facilities: A survey-based comparison of species-typical behaviors

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Andrea W Clay, Stephen R Ross, Susan Lambeth, Maribel Vazquez, Sarah Breaux, Rhonda Pietsch, Amy Fultz, Michael Lammey, Sarah L Jacobson, Jaine E Perlman
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A survey was sent to zoos, research facilities, and sanctuaries which housed chimpanzees. Data collected included information about 1122 chimpanzees’ age, sex, social group-size, rearing history, and enclosure. Respondents were also asked to indicate if certain behaviors had been observed in each chimpanzee over the prior two years. Species- typical behaviors (STBs) were queried, including copulation, tool-use, nest-building, and social grooming. Tool-use was reported present for 94.3% of the sample (n = 982), active social grooming for 85.7% (n = 1121), copulation for 68.3% (n = 863) and nest-building for 58.9% (n = 982). Of the subjects for whom we had data regarding all four STBs (n = 860), 45.6% were reported to engage in all four. Logistic regression analyses using forward Wald criteria were conducted to determine the best model for each STB based on the predictors of age, sex, rearing history, group-size, facility-type, and a sex-by-rearing interaction. The best model for copulation (χ2(6) = 124.62, p < 0.001) included rearing, group-size, facility-type, and the sex-by-rearing interaction. Chimpanzees were more likely to copulate if they were mother-reared, in larger groups, living in research facilities, and, if not mother-reared (NOTMR), more likely to copulate if they were female. The best model for tool-use retained the predictors of age category, facility-type, and sex-by-rearing (χ2(5) = 55.78, p < 0.001). Chimpanzees were more likely to use tools if they were adult, living in research facilities, and if NOTMR, were female. The best model for nest-building included facility-type and rearing (χ2(3) = 205.71, p < 0.001). Chimpanzees were more likely to build nests if they were MR and if they were living in zoos or in sanctuaries. The best model for active social grooming retained the predictors of age, sex, rearing, and type of facility (χ2(6) = 102.15, p < 0.001). Chimpanzees were more likely to engage in active social grooming if they were immature, female, mother-reared, and living in zoos. This research provides a basic behavioral profile for many chimpanzees living under human care in the United States and allows us to determine potential methods for improving the welfare of these and future chimpanzees in this population.


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