How Sanctuary Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) Use Space after Being Introduced to a Large Outdoor Habitat

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Amy Fultz, Akie Yanagi, Sarah Breaux, Leilani Beaupre, Nick Naitove
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Wild chimpanzees live in large, mixed-sex groups that display a fission–fusion social organization. To provide a social environment more like that of wild chimpanzees, Chimp Haven integrated smaller groups of 3–4 individuals into one large group of 18 individuals. This large group was introduced to a 20,234.28 m2 forested habitat and associated indoor areas. This space was designed to allow the individual chimpanzees to choose their proximity to social companions and provide the group with a more natural environment in which they could express more species-typical behavior. The study took place over a 7-month period that began two weeks prior to the first groups being integrated and ended 4 months after the chimpanzees were released into the habitat. We collected data on the chimpanzees’ arboreal, terrestrial, indoor, and outdoor spatial use. The chimpanzees’ proximity to their nearest neighbor was also recorded, noting whether they were touching or within arm’s reach. Data were collected during daytime and nighttime hours and were utilized to make management decisions about potential group formations. We examined the data using generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) with individual subjects as a random factor and months as a repeated measure for location and proximity results. There were significant differences in the use of arboreal and outside space over the 7-month time frame, with females more likely to use the arboreal space than males. The chimpanzees were more likely to utilize the habitat over time and increased their proximity to group mates. The results of this study indicate that the chimpanzees responded positively to living in large groups in a spacious naturalistic environment.


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