CZAAWE Resource Article

Evaluating the physiological and behavioral response of a male and female gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) during an introduction
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Prolonged stress responses can lead to infertility and death; therefore monitoring respective indicators like stress-related hormones and behaviors is an important tool in ensuring the health and well-being among zoo-housed animal populations. Changes in social structure, such as the introduction of a new conspecific, can be a source of stress. In April 2010, a sexually mature female western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) was brought to Lincoln Park Zoo (LPZ; Chicago, IL) from the Chicago Zoological Park (Brookfield, IL) for a breeding recommendation from the Gorilla Species Survival Plan®. Fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGMs) were monitored in two gorillas prior to, during and immediately following the social introduction. Reproduction events, such ovarian cyclicity and pregnancy, were monitored using behavior and fecal progestagen metabolite (FPM; female) and fecal androgen metabolite (FAM; male) analyses. Mean (± standard error) FGM concentrations for the male were elevated (P = 0.002) during the introduction (20.61 ± 0.83 ng/g) compared to the pre- and post-introduction phases (11.31 ± 0.48 ng/g and 12.42 ± 0.65 ng/g, respectively). For the female, mean FGM concentrations were lower (P < 0.001) during the post-introduction (17.91 ± 1.07 ng/g) than during the pre- and introduction phases (30.50 ± 3.42 and 27.38 ± 1.51 ng/g, respectively). The female maintained normal FPM cyclicity throughout the study and became pregnant in the post-introduction phase. These results suggest the importance of both behavioral and physiological monitoring of zoo animals and demonstrate the potential stress that can occur during social introductions. Zoo Biol. 33:394–402, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals Inc.