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The effect of fission–fusion zoo housing on hormonal and behavioral indicators of stress in Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus)


Amrein, Martin; Heistermann, Michael; Weingrill, Tony (2014). The effect of fission–fusion zoo housing on hormonal and behavioral indicators of stress in Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). International Journal of Primatology, 35(2):509-528.

Abstract

The welfare of captive animals could be improved if zoos were to place more emphasis on their species-specific needs. In the wild, orangutans live in a fission–fusion social system and have a semisolitary lifestyle. However, most zoos keep orangutans in permanent groups, which may be stressful for them. Apenheul Primate Park in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, houses 14 Bornean orangutans in a simulated fission–fusion social system. To assess how this housing system affects indicators of stress, we measured fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCM) and determined proportions of self-directed behavior (scratching and autogrooming). We compared fGCM concentrations of the Apenheul animals to those of zoo orangutans kept in permanent groups. In addition, we tested the effect of group size, visitor number, sex, age, and change of group composition on fGCM concentrations and proportions of self-directed behavior in the Apenheul orangutans. In contrast to Bornean orangutans housed in permanent groups, we did not find a group size effect on fGCM or on self-directed behavior in Apenheul’s fission–fusion housing system. In addition, fGCM concentrations in Apenheul orangutans increased significantly with visitor numbers. Visitor number also affected proportions of self-directed behavior, and mean proportions of scratching were positively correlated with mean values of fGCM concentrations. Although these results suggest that the fission–fusion housing system in Apenheul reduces the group size effect leading to social stress in Bornean orangutans, they also show that visitors are an important factor that needs to be mitigated if the well-being of captive primates and other zoo animals is to be improved.

Abstract

The welfare of captive animals could be improved if zoos were to place more emphasis on their species-specific needs. In the wild, orangutans live in a fission–fusion social system and have a semisolitary lifestyle. However, most zoos keep orangutans in permanent groups, which may be stressful for them. Apenheul Primate Park in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, houses 14 Bornean orangutans in a simulated fission–fusion social system. To assess how this housing system affects indicators of stress, we measured fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCM) and determined proportions of self-directed behavior (scratching and autogrooming). We compared fGCM concentrations of the Apenheul animals to those of zoo orangutans kept in permanent groups. In addition, we tested the effect of group size, visitor number, sex, age, and change of group composition on fGCM concentrations and proportions of self-directed behavior in the Apenheul orangutans. In contrast to Bornean orangutans housed in permanent groups, we did not find a group size effect on fGCM or on self-directed behavior in Apenheul’s fission–fusion housing system. In addition, fGCM concentrations in Apenheul orangutans increased significantly with visitor numbers. Visitor number also affected proportions of self-directed behavior, and mean proportions of scratching were positively correlated with mean values of fGCM concentrations. Although these results suggest that the fission–fusion housing system in Apenheul reduces the group size effect leading to social stress in Bornean orangutans, they also show that visitors are an important factor that needs to be mitigated if the well-being of captive primates and other zoo animals is to be improved.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:16 Jan 2015 13:42
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 18:49
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0164-0291
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-014-9765-5

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