Long-Term Assessment of Captive Chimpanzees: Influence of Social Group Composition, Seasonality and Biographic Background

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Arnau Pascual, Elfriede Kalcher-Sommersguter, David Riba, Dietmar Crailsheim
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Wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) live in flexible fission–fusion societies with frequent changes in both group size and composition. These changes depend mostly on resource availability and individual social preferences yet in captivity are determined by housing organizations. During a period of seven years, we observed a group of sanctuary chimpanzees, focusing on how they adapted to changes in the group composition over time. Using linear mixed models (LMMs), factors such as group size, sex ratio, seasonality, and the individuals’ sex and origin (wild caught vs. captive born) were considered in order to evaluate the impact on the chimpanzees’ activity levels, the occurrence of undesired behaviors (abnormal and self-directed behaviors) and the social grooming networks. Our results indicate that the activity levels and the occurrence of undesired behaviors were impacted by changes in group composition and the individuals’ biographic background. The colder season was marked by higher levels of activity and more time spent grooming. Moreover, it was the individuals’ origin but not changes in group composition that affected social grooming, with wild-caught chimpanzees grooming far less frequently. Long-term observations are essential to evaluate, predict and detect potential benefits and/or issues of housing conditions while considering the social and physical environment.


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