, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 57-68

Play in chimpanzees of the Arnhem Zoo: Self-serving compromises

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In a colony of 25 chimpanzees maintained at Arnhem (The Netherlands), play behavior was studied for four months, yielding 1,651 play bouts involving the 11 oldest immature chimpanzees on which detailed data were collected during 88 focal animal samples of 30 min each. Play frequency and object play were negatively correlated with increasing age. These findings potentially reflect changing motivations during development and increasingly perfected skills. Like-aged partners were preferred play partners and older partners initiated play more frequently, probably because younger individuals feared rough responses by older immatures and waited until the latter initiated play bouts in a self-handicapped manner. Moreover, play was frequently interrupted by short breaks. This, in conjunction with the preference for like-aged partners, may be mechanisms to achieve and maintain compromises between the play partners' different interests in social play (which e.g. depend on sex and physical development) and to minimize the risk to being cheated. Males played significantly more often than females and played more chasing games. Male-male play was over-represented whereas female-female play was underrepresented. These facts potentially foreshadow sex differences in (wild) maturing chimpanzees, where males engage in more agonistic conflicts and tend to build coalitions.