, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 190-193

Effect of giving birth on the cortisol level in a bonobo groups’ (Pan paniscus) saliva

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Abstract

This study documents the cortisol levels in the saliva of a bonobo group, especially that of a bonobo female which had given birth for the first time. During a long study in Zoological Garden Frankfurt, Germany, a bonobo baby was born on 3 August 2007. Due to the fission–fusion keeping system employed, the bonobos were divided into two groups on this day. Their behavior was observed regularly and saliva was also collected. The bonobos had been trained to chew cotton wool and to give back the samples. The cortisol response was tested twice a day before birth and three times on the day of parturition. Before birth, no observable indication behavior was seen, but an increase in the cortisol concentration of the expectant mother was found. Parturition occurred at 8 pm. The next morning, the group with the newborn was visibly more active, which correlated with the fact that their cortisol levels were increased in the morning in comparison to the second group. During the day, cortisol decreased in both groups, only it was higher throughout the day in the new mother. In the evening, the two groups showed nearly the same cortisol levels. These data indicate that there is indeed a relation between observable behavior and the cortisol level in bonobo saliva. Therefore, the cortisol level can be regarded as a suitable indicator for verifying behavioral events.