In a captive environment, it is challenging to ensure the highest level of social and psychological well-being for species with naturally complex social organizations and structures. There is a growing need to meet the social requirements for individuals of these species, especially chimpanzees, housed in zoos, sanctuaries, rehabilitation centers, and laboratories. Complex social interactions and broader social structures can be aptly described via social network analysis. We expand on the literature regarding captive chimpanzee social networks, but uniquely consider their human caregivers as potential social partners. We observed the social interactions between one group of seven chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and their caregivers in six behavioral contexts (nearest neighbor, play, aggression, grooming, grooming solicitation, and social vigilance) at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (USA). By constructing multiple chimpanzee and chimpanzee-caregiver social networks, our results indicate that caregivers are integrated partners in this group’s social structure. Additionally, we observed that the type and strength of chimpanzee-caregiver relationships varied between the chimpanzees. These results support the notion that caregivers offer additional opportunities (i.e., beyond those with conspecifics) for captive chimpanzees to construct and maintain meaningful social relationships. Our results show that considerations of captive primate social dynamics should include caregivers as potentially important social partners. Our results also highlight the importance of evaluating individual chimpanzee characteristics when developing philosophies of care and adopting husbandry practices that offer fulfilling social niches. Our findings bear influence on contemporary discussions of interspecies social relationships, captive welfare, health, translocation, and husbandry protocols for captive chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates.
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We thank CSNW staff and volunteers for their participation, cooperation, and tolerance during data collection. We appreciate E. K.’s assistance with the interobserver reliability testing. We are grateful to Crickette Sanz, E. A. Quinn, the editors of Primates, and three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful reviews which greatly improved this manuscript. We are additionally grateful for the financial support of the Pete and Sandra Barlow Award (Central Washington University, Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies), the Debra and Arlen Prentice Award (Central Washington University, Primate Behavior Program), and Central Washington University School of Graduate Studies and Research. Finally, we are indebted to Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody, Missy, and Negra for allowing us to peer into their social worlds. In this research we followed the American Society of Primatologists Principles for the Ethical Treatment of Non-Human Primates. This project was approved by the Central Washington University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (protocol A041701) and Human Subjects Research Council (protocol H17069).
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Funkhouser, J.A., Mayhew, J.A., Mulcahy, J. et al. Human caregivers are integrated social partners for captive chimpanzees. Primates 62, 297–309 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-020-00867-6
- Interspecific social relationships
- Captive welfare
- Human-animal relationships
- Philosophies of care
- Social network analysis
- Pan troglodytes