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Empty nest: a case study of maternal response to separation from a juvenile offspring in a captive sumatran orangutan ( Pongo pygmaeus abelii )

By L. R. Tarou, M. J. Bashaw, T. L. Maple

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Abstract

Improving the welfare of captive nonhuman primates requires evaluating the stressors created by the captive environment and reducing their negative effects. Social separation, although sometimes necessary for managing the genetic diversity of captive populations of animals, causes both psychological and physiological stress in human and primate monkey infants. Few studies have examined the maternal response of great ape mothers to separation from their offspring. This article describes the behavioral changes of a mother orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus abelii) after separation from her juvenile daughter. We collected data on measures of proximity and social behavior before the separation of the mother-infant dyad and of locomotion, arboreality, abnormal behavior, solitary behavior, and vocalization both before and after separation. We observed no behavioral indications of protest but observed some indications of despair after separation: decreased locomotion, increased inactivity, and increased self-directed behavior. In addition, we observed increases in arboreality and object-oriented behavior during morning sessions. These findings suggest that mother-juvenile separation in orangutans might be less stressful for mothers than might be expected. Such research has implications for the welfare and management of captive animals.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 3
Issue 3
Pages 203-213
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1207/S15327604JAWS0303_2
Language English
Author Address TECHlab, Zoo Atlanta and School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA.
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animals
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Case Report
  7. Great ape
  8. Mammals
  9. Maternal behavior
  10. orangutans
  11. peer-reviewed
  12. Primates
  13. vertebrates
  14. Zoo and captive wild animals
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed