Group structure and individual relationships of sanctuary-living Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri)
Year of Publication:
|Austin Leeds, Dalmas Kakule, Laura Stalter, Jackson K. Mbeke, Katie Fawcett
|Public Library of Science
|animal sociality, centrality, collective animal behavior, eigenvectors, female contraception, gorillas, primates, social networks
The study of individual social relationships and group structure provides insights into a species’ natural history and can inform management decisions for animals living in human care. The Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) center provides permanent sanctuary for a group of 14 Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri), a critically endangered and poorly studied subspecies of the genus gorilla, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We monitored the association patterns of the gorillas at GRACE over eight months and here describe their individual relationships and group structure via multiple social network statistics. The group was highly connected but associations between individuals were weak on average. Social network metrics describe that an adult female was the most gregarious and socially central individual within the group. In fact, adult females were the most gregarious and socially central on average. Group level association patterns were significantly correlated over the study period and across observation types, suggesting the group was socially stable during the eight month study period. The data collected in this study were done so by GRACE caregivers as part of their daily husbandry routine and provided important insights into this group’s behavior, ultimately informing on their care, welfare and future release considerations. The methodological approaches implemented here are easily scalable to any primate sanctuary or care facility seeking to use data to inform husbandry and management procedures. Lastly, our study is the first social network analysis to be conducted on Grauer’s gorillas and provides tentative insights into the behavior of this poorly studied subspecies. Though more research is needed to evaluate if the findings here are reflective of this subspecies’ natural history or the idiosyncrasies of the group.