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The choice to access outdoor areas affects the behavior of great apes

By L. M. Kurtycz, K. E. Wagner, S. R. Ross

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Outdoor access is often cited as a critical component of appropriate housing for great apes in captivity, and although studies have shown that offering primates choices can improve welfare, choice to access specific areas has been empirically neglected. Behavioral data were collected on chimpanzees and gorillas housed in naturalistic enclosures while (a) restricted to an indoor enclosure and (b) permitted free access to an adjacent outdoor area. To isolate the factor of choice, only the sessions in which apes remained indoors were compared. With choice, chimpanzees showed more frequent social, F(1, 5)=20.526, p=.006, and self-directed behaviors, F(1, 5)=13.507, p=.014, and lower inactivity levels, F(1, 5)=9.239, p=.029. Gorillas were more frequently inactive, F(1, 8)=22.259, p=.002, and produced lower levels of object manipulation, F(1, 8)=8.243, p=.021, and feeding, F(1, 8)=5.407, p=.049. Results are consistent with an association between choice and the expression of species-typical and arousal behaviors in chimpanzees. The effects are less evident in gorillas, but this outcome may be buffered by the species' lower motivation to utilize the outdoor spaces. Findings highlight species-specific reactions to access to choice that may offer insight for enclosure design, management, and nonhuman animal welfare.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 17
Issue 3
Pages 185-197
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2014.896213
Language English
Author Address Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal housing
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Animals
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Buildings
  6. Chimpanzees
  7. Effect
  8. Feeding
  9. Gorillas
  10. Great ape
  11. Mammals
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Primates
  14. Research
  15. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed