Transfer and Acclimatization Effects on the Behavior of Two Species of African Great Ape (Pan troglodytes and Gorilla gorilla gorilla) Moved to a Novel and Naturalistic Zoo Environment
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- Ross, S.R., Wagner, K.E., Schapiro, S.J. et al. Int J Primatol (2011) 32: 99. doi:10.1007/s10764-010-9441-3
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Studying the effects of moving animals to new enclosures is of value to both captive managers and to scientists interested in the complex interplay between environment and behavior. Great apes represent some of the greatest challenges in this regard. Given the cognitive sophistication of these species and the substantial investments in new primate facilities, these investigations are particularly important. Using post-occupancy evaluation (POE) methodology, we compared behavior exhibited by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in indoor hardscape-type exhibits to behavior of the same individuals in new naturalistic enclosures with outdoor access. In the new facility, chimpanzees showed decreases in the frequency of abnormal behaviors and visual monitoring of humans (attention behaviors) whereas gorillas exhibited reduced agonism as well as decreased attention behaviors. Both gorillas and chimpanzees demonstrated higher rates of inactivity after transfer to the new facility. All subjects in addition demonstrated transitory changes in behavior after the move to the new facility (higher rates of scratching in yr 1 than in subsequent years), indicating a period of acclimatization. Seasonal effects on feeding behavior and activity levels (both species were more active in the winter) were evident as well. The results indicate that behavioral adjustment to a new facility is an extended process for both species and that seasonal effects should be considered in longitudinal analyses of acclimatization. Behavioral patterns supported the benefits of naturalistic, functional exhibit spaces and the utility of post-occupancy evaluations in assessing captive animal welfare.