Cognitive enrichment in a social setting: assessing the use of a novel food maze in sanctuary-housed chimpanzees

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Maria Padrell, Federica Amici, Maria Pau Córdoba, Miquel Llorente
, , ,

Foraging devices are effective enrichment tools for non-human primates, as they provide both cognitive and manipulative stimulation that may enhance these animals’ welfare. We assessed the behavioral effects of a novel tool-based enrichment on 14 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) housed at Fundació Mona (Girona, Spain). The device consisted of a vertical maze filled with food rewards, which chimpanzees could extract by using tools. We conducted behavioral observations in two conditions over an approximately 2.5-month period: when the food maze was loaded (12 enrichment days), and when it was empty (12 baseline days). Data were collected using 2-min scan sampling and untimed-event focal sampling during two daily sessions of 80 min each. We expected that the chimpanzees’ interest in the enrichment would decrease over time, but that its use would be linked to an increase in the occurrence of species-typical behaviors, a reduction in negative indicators of welfare, and changes in social behaviors. We found that participation widely varied among subjects, being higher in females and decreasing through time. Furthermore, participation was linked to an increase in tool use and a decrease in inactivity, but also to an increase in aggression-related behaviors. In contrast, participation had no effect on the occurrence of abnormal behaviors, social proximity or affiliation-related behaviors. Finally, we detected an increase in self-directed behaviors only when subjects actively interacted with the device. We conclude that, in future studies, these types of devices should be evaluated for longer periods of time and more attention should be paid to individuals’ preferences and abilities.


Back to Resources