Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Some captive chimpanzees show signs of compromised mental health, research shows

Date:
June 24, 2011
Source:
University of Kent
Summary:
A new study finds that serious behavioral abnormalities, some of which could be compared to mental illness in humans, are endemic among captive chimpanzees. While most behavior of zoo-living chimpanzees is 'normal' in that it is typical of their wild counterparts, abnormal behavior is endemic in this population despite enrichment efforts such as social housing, say researchers.

Captive chimpanzee.
Credit: © Lucy Birkett

New research from the University of Kent has shown that serious behavioral abnormalities, some of which could be compared to mental illness in humans, are endemic among captive chimpanzees.

These include self-mutilation, repetitive rocking, as well as the eating of feces and drinking of urine.

The research, which was conducted by Dr Nicholas Newton-Fisher and Lucy Birkett from the University's School of Anthropology and Conservation and is published by the online journal PLoS ONE, was conducted among 40 socially-housed zoo-living chimpanzees from six collections in the USA and UK. After determining the prevalence, diversity, frequency, and duration of abnormal behavior from 1200 hours of continuous behavioral data, the researchers concluded that, while most behavior of zoo-living chimpanzees is 'normal' in that it is typical of their wild counterparts, abnormal behavior is endemic in this population despite enrichment efforts such as social housing.

Such abnormal behavior has been attributed to the fact that many zoo-living chimpanzees have little opportunity to adjust association patterns, occupy restricted and barren spaces compared to the natural habitat, and have large parts of their lives substantially managed by humans. Controlled diets and provisioned feeding contrast radically with the ever-changing foraging and decision-making processes of daily life in the wild.

To date, published literature on abnormal behavior in wild chimpanzees is sparse and rates of abnormality comparable to those described in the study have never been reported.

Dr Newton-Fisher, a primate behavioral ecologist and expert in wild chimpanzee behavior, said: 'The best zoo environments, which include all zoos in this study, try hard to enrich the lives of the chimpanzees in their care. Their efforts include providing unpredictable feeding schedules and extractive foraging opportunities, and opportunities for normal social interactions by housing chimpanzees in social groups. There are limits to what zoos can provide, however; the apes are still in captivity.

'What we found in this study is that some abnormal behaviors persist despite interventions to 'naturalize' the captive conditions. The pervasive nature of abnormal behavior, and its persistence in the face of environmental enrichment and social group housing, raises the concern that at least some examples of such behavior are indicative of possible mental health problems.

'We suggest that captivity itself may be fundamental as a causal factor in the presence of persistent, low-level, abnormal behavior -- and potentially more extreme levels in some individuals. Therefore, it is critical for us to learn more about how the chimpanzee mind copes with captivity, an issue with both scientific and welfare implications that will impact potential discussions concerning whether chimpanzees and similar species should be kept in captivity at all.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Kent. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lucy P. Birkett, Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher. How Abnormal Is the Behaviour of Captive, Zoo-Living Chimpanzees? PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (6): e20101 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020101

Cite This Page:

University of Kent. "Some captive chimpanzees show signs of compromised mental health, research shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110622102327.htm>.
University of Kent. (2011, June 24). Some captive chimpanzees show signs of compromised mental health, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110622102327.htm
University of Kent. "Some captive chimpanzees show signs of compromised mental health, research shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110622102327.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

AFP (Oct. 2, 2014) — The turtles and Dolphins of Pakistan's Indus river - both protected by law - are in a fight for their survival as man's activities threatens their futures. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

'Harvest Break' Endures in Maine Potato Fields

AP (Oct. 2, 2014) — Educators and farmers are clinging to a tradition aimed at giving farmers much-needed help in getting potatoes out of the fields and into storage before the ground freezes in the nation's northeast corner. (Oct. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Attacking Superbugs

Attacking Superbugs

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — Two weapons hospitals can use to attack superbugs. Scientists in Ireland created a new gel resistant to superbugs, and a robot that can disinfect a room in minutes. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins