Long-Term Spatial Restriction Generates Deferred Limited Space Use in a Zoo-Housed Chimpanzee Group
Background: Appropriate space is considered paramount for good captive animal welfare. There has been a concerted effort by captive institutions, particularly zoos, to provide captive animals with relatively large, naturalistic enclosures which havehad demonstrated welfare benefits for animals. However, post-occupancy assessments of these enclosures tend to focus on short-term welfare-centredbehavioural effects or human perceptions of the enclosures and their effects and seldom consider spaceuse. We examined the space use of a group of eight captive chimpanzees 5 years after large-scale enclosure modification at the Johannesburg Zoo, South Africa. Methods: Instantaneous scan sampling was used to record behaviour and location of each chimpanzee at 5 min intervals in the new enclosure. From these 6.8 h of data, space-use patterns and subgroup (two or more chimpanzees within 10 m of each other) spacing were considered relative to local environmental variables, social conditions and the location and size of the previous smaller enclosures in which they had been kept. Results: Space use was heterogeneous, with some enclosure zones being used more than others, and 97.5% of subgroups restricted their spacing to the dimensions of the previous housing (10 m × 10 m). Conclusions: This pattern was not explained by individual behaviour, time of day, location, available space, weather, temperature or shade availability, inter-individual spacing or subgroup composition. We suggest the learned helplessness phenomenon may explain these observations and discuss the implications for both animal welfare and endangered species conservation.Regardless of the mechanism, we suggest that such effects could be avoided through the provision of large enclosures for captive animals.
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