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Investigating the Relationship between Welfare and Rearing Young in Captive Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Cronin, K. A., West, V., & Ross, S. R. (2016). Investigating the Relationship between Welfare and Rearing Young in Captive Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 181, 166-172. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2016.05.014.
Whether the opportunity to breed and rear young improves the welfare of captive animals is currently debated. However, there is very little empirical data available to evaluate this relationship and this study is a first attempt to contribute objective data to this debate. We utilized the existing variation in the reproductive experiences of sanctuary chimpanzees at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in Zambia to investigate whether breeding and rearing young was associated with improved welfare for adult females (N = 43). We considered several behavioural welfare indicators, including rates of luxury behaviours and abnormal or stress-related behaviours under normal conditions and conditions inducing social stress. Furthermore, we investigated whether spending time with young was associated with good or poor welfare for adult females, regardless of their kin relationship. We used generalized linear mixed models and found no difference between adult females with and without dependent young on any welfare indices, nor did we find that time spent in proximity to unrelated young predicted welfare (all full-null model comparisons likelihood ratio tests P > 0.05). However, we did find that coprophagy was more prevalent among mother-reared than non-mother-reared individuals, in line with recent work suggesting this behaviour may have a different etiology than other behaviours often considered to be abnormal. In sum, the findings from this initial study lend support to the hypothesis that the opportunity to breed and rear young does not provide a welfare benefit for chimpanzees in captivity. We hope this investigation provides a valuable starting point for empirical study into the welfare implications of managed breeding.

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