CZAAWE Resource Article

Using training to moderate chimpanzee aggression during feeding
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.1430130605.abs The effects of human and nonhuman primate interactions on the well-being of captive nonhuman primates have been studied less rigorously than other forms of environmental improvement. Human intervention might be used to moderate severe aggression of socially housed animals at feeding times, one of the most common behavioral management problems. In this study, positive reinforcement training techniques were applied to reduce a dominant male chimpanzee's aggression and chasing during meals. Verbal commands and food reinforcers were used to train him to sit and remain seated while other group members received and ate their share of produce. Observational data were collected recording all instances of agonism in the group during periods when meals were fed and during times when no meals were offered, both before and after the training was accomplished. Multivariate analysis of variance for repeated measures results indicated that the training program successfully reduced the group's incidence of displaying, submission, and aggression during feeding periods. This effect was specific to the times meals were fed; there was no generalized reduction in the group's agonism after the training. This study exemplifies the use of positive reinforcement techniques to modify chimpanzee social dynamics during a problematic situation and of observational data to evaluate quantitatively the behavioral effects of the training. Training can be employed to help solve behavioral management problems among socially housed animals, and it can help improve the psychological well-being of captive chimpanzees. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.