Project

Fundació MONA - Primate Sanctuary Research

Goal: Although the main mission of sanctuaries is to rescue and rehabilitate primates, there is a great potential to conduct non-invasive research. With the aim to improve the primates rehabilitation and well being in captivity and to support conservation efforts and raising awareness, Fundació MONA has established a Research Department soon after being founded.

In this Project we share some of the findings we managed to achieve over the years, either by collaborating with other researchers or our own studies:

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Project log

Olga Feliu
added a research item
Chimpanzees used as pets and in the entertainment industry endure detrimental living conditions from early infancy onwards. The preferred option for ending their existence as pet or circus chimpanzees is their rescue and transfer to a primate sanctuary that will provide them with optimal living and social conditions, so that they can thrive. In this case study, we had the rare opportunity to compare the activity budgets of three chimpanzees from their time as pets in 2004 to their time living at the MONA sanctuary in 2020, after almost a decade in the centre. We found their behaviour patterns changed in accordance with the sanctuaries’ rehabilitation objectives. Resting periods increased considerably while vigilance simultaneously declined sharply. Moreover, the chimpanzees’ social competence increased as allogrooming became the predominant social behaviour, and agonistic interactions diminished even though they were living within a larger social group at the sanctuary. All three chimpanzees expanded their allogrooming and proximity networks at the sanctuary, which included new group members, but they maintained the closest relationships to those conspecifics who they were rescued with. In conclusion, these findings suggest that the sanctuary environment and social group setting made it possible for these three chimpanzees to improve their social competence and increase their well-being over time.
Maria Padrell
added a research item
Artificial termite-fishing tasks are a common enrichment for captive great apes, promoting species-typical behaviors. Nonetheless, whether these activities are linked to changes in other behaviors and whether these changes persist over time has seldom been investigated. We assessed whether the use of an artificial termite-fishing task was linked to changes in the solitary behavior and social dynamics in two groups of sanctuary-housed chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Specifically, we compared chimpanzee behavior during eight enrichment sessions distributed over a two-month period, with similar periods before and after the introduction of the enrichment. Data were collected from combined interval and continuous sampling methods and were analyzed using generalized linear mixed models. We found that participation increased across sessions and that both enrichment and participation predicted an increase in tool use and feeding and a decrease in inactivity, which were all maintained throughout the sessions. Furthermore, participation was positively associated with social proximity, revealing a gathering effect of the task. However, neither enrichment nor participation were linked to changes in abnormal, self-directed, affiliation-related or aggression-related behaviors. Overall, our results support the hypothesis that artificial termite-fishing is a suitable enrichment for captive chimpanzees, maintaining the subjects’ interest and promoting species-typical behaviors, with no negative effects on social activities.
Olga Feliu
added 2 research items
Simple Summary: Hunting is well documented in wild chimpanzees, but has rarely been documented in captive chimpanzees. At Fundació Mona Primate Rescue we have obtained evidence of five episodes of hunting in rehabilitated chimpanzees who had no previous experience of these types of behaviors. This demonstrated that they were able to perform this species-typical behavior in a naturalistic environment without learning it in the wild. Abstract: Predatory behavior in wild chimpanzees and other primates has been well documented over the last 30 years. However, as it is an opportunistic behavior, conditions which may promote such behavior are left up to chance. Until now, predatory behavior among captive chimpanzees has been poorly documented. In this paper, we present five instances providing evidence of predatory behavior: four performed by isolated individuals and one carried out in cooperation. The evidence of group predation involved the chimpanzees adopting different roles as pursuers and ambushers. Prey was partially eaten in some cases, but not in the social episode. This study confirms that naturalistic environments allow chimpanzees to enhance species-typical behavioral patterns.
Primates are at times used as performers in circuses, advertisements, films, and as pets. Most of these animals are socially isolated from their peers. They exhibit behavioral problems and lack important skills for living in a group environment. One of the main challenges primate rescue centers face is creating groups to socialize rescued individuals and promote the development of species-typical behaviors. We monitored a group of 15 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) housed at Fundació Mona, a primate rescue and rehabilitation centre, for 8 yr. The aim of the study was to study the rehabilitation process and to establish variables that may influence the behavioral recovery of the chimpanzees. We used scan sampling to assess behavior and two welfare indices over the study period. Our results show that both desirable behaviors and welfare indices increased over time, while nondesirable behaviors decreased. We found no differences between pet and performer chimpanzees, but captive-born subjects recovered better than wild-born. We also established that chimpanzees that were younger at the onset of rehabilitation reached higher levels of social and behavioral competence than those that were older. We conclude that both social group housing and opportunities for the development of species-typical behaviors have a positive effect on the welfare and rehabilitation of performer and pet chimpanzees, but that their previous history influences rehabilitation
Maria Padrell
added 2 research items
Longitudinal research on manual preferences in humans and non-human primates has mainly been conducted from a developmental perspective, with only a few studies exploring long-term stability of this trait during adulthood. Therefore, we investigated short-term (1 year) and long-term (10 and 11 years) consistency of hand preference in a naturalistic group of 19 juvenile and adult chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) by using two experimental tasks, one unimanual (simple reaching) and one bimanual (tube task). The experimental sessions were conducted in 2007, 2008 and 2018. We found that the direction of hand preference (right vs. left) in the tube task remained stable after both short-time and long-time periods. Conversely, hand preference direction for simple reaching was not consistent after the longest period (11 years), but the handedness indices (HI) between 2007 and 2008 (1-year period) and between 2008 and 2018 (10-year period) were positively correlated. The comparison between tasks confirmed that all the chimpanzees were more strongly lateralised for the tube task. Interestingly, however, the strength of hand preference in the tube task showed an increasing trend in the long term. We hypothesize that this could be a consequence of practice and experience with a particular motor action.
Personality has been linked to individual variation in interest and performance in cog-nitive tasks. Nevertheless, this relationship is still poorly understood and has rarely been considered in animal cognition research. Here, we investigated the association between personality and interest, motivation and task performance in 13 sanctuary chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) housed at Fundació Mona (Spain). Personality was assessed with a 12-item questionnaire based on Eysenck's Psychoticism-Extraversion-Neuroticism model completed by familiar keepers and researchers. Additionally, personality ratings were compared to behavioral observations conducted over an 11-year period. Experimental tasks consisted in several puzzle boxes that needed to be manipulated in order to obtain a food reward. Dependent variables included participation (as an indicator of interest), success and latency (as measures of performance), and losing contact with the task (as an indicator of motivation). As predicted, we obtained significant correlations between Eysenck's personality traits and observed behaviors, although some expected associations were absent. We then analyzed data using Generalized Linear Mixed Models, running a model for each dependent variable. In both sexes, lower Extraversion and lower Dominance were linked to a higher probability of success, but this effect was stronger in females. Furthermore, higher Neuropsychoticism predicted higher probability of success in females, but not in males. The probability of losing contact with the task was higher in young chimpanzees, and in those rated lower on Extraversion and higher on Dominance. Additionally, chimpanzees rated higher on Neuropsychoticism were also more likely to stop interacting with the task, but again this was more evident in females. Participation and latency were not linked to any personality trait. Our findings show that the PEN may be a good model to describe chimpanzee personality, and stress the importance of considering personality when interpreting the results of cognitive research in non-human primates. How to cite this article Padrell M, Riba D, Úbeda Y, Amici F, Llorente M. 2020. Personality, cognition and behavior in chimpanzees: a new approach based on Eysenck's model. PeerJ 8:e9707 http://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.9707
Dietmar Crailsheim
added 7 research items
Advances in the field of social network analysis facilitate the creation of multiplex networks where several interaction types can be analysed simultaneously. In order to test the potential benefits of this approach, we investigated the sociability of atypically raised chimpanzees by constructing and analysing 4-layered multiplex networks of two groups of former pet and entertainment chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). These networks are based on four social interaction types (stationary vicinity, affiliative behaviour, allogrooming, passive close proximity) representing low- to high-level interaction types in terms of sociability. Using the tools provided by the MuxViz software, we could assess and compare the similarity and information gain of each these social interaction types. We found some social interaction types to be more similar than other ones. However, each social interaction type imparted different information. We also tested for a possible impact of the chimpanzees’ biographical background on the social interaction types and found affiliative behaviour as well as allogrooming to be affected by adverse early life experiences. We conclude that this multiplex approach provides a more realistic framework giving detailed insight into the sociability of these chimpanzees and can function as a tool to support captive care management decisions.
The question of ‘if and how captive primates are affected by visitors’ has gained increasing attention over the last decades. Although the majority reported undesirable effects on behavior and wellbeing, many studies reported contradicting results. Most of these studies were conducted at zoos, typically with little or no control over visitors’ actions. Yet little is known about the impact under very controlled visitor conditions. In order to fill this gap, we conducted this study at a primate sanctuary which allows public access only via a guided visit under strict supervision. We observed 14 chimpanzees, recording their behavior during, after and in the absence of guided visits over a 10-month period. Furthermore, we categorized the visitors regarding group size and composition to see if certain group types would produce a stronger impact on the chimpanzees’ behavior. As expected, we found visitors at the sanctuary to produce only a neutral impact on the chimpanzees’ behavior, detecting a slight increase of locomotion and decrease of inactivity during visitor activities with chimpanzees demonstrating more interest towards larger sized groups. We argue that the impact has been greatly mitigated by the strict visitor restrictions and care strategies allowing chimpanzees a certain control regarding their visibility.
The genus Pan is the closest related to humans (Homo sapiens) and it includes two species: Pan troglodytes (chimpanzees) and Pan paniscus (bonobos). Different characteristics, some of biomedical aspect, separate them from us. For instance, some common human medical conditions are rare in chimpanzees (menopause, Alzheimer disease) although it is unclear to which extent longevity plays an active role in these differences. However, both humans and chimpanzees present similar pathologies, thus, understanding traits in chimpanzees can help unravel the molecular basis of human conditions. Here, we sequenced the genome of Nico, a central chimpanzee diagnosed with a particular biomedical condition, the Chiari malformation. We performed a variant calling analysis comparing his genome to 25 whole genomes from healthy individuals (bonobos and chimpanzees), and after predicting the effects of the genetic variants, we looked for genes within the OMIM database. We found a novel, private, predicted as damaging mutation in Nico in LRP5, a gene related to bone density alteration pathologies, and we suggest a link between this mutation and his Chiari malformation as previously shown in humans. Our results reinforce the idea that a comparison between humans and chimpanzees can be established in this genetic frame of common diseases.
Dietmar Crailsheim
added a project goal
Although the main mission of sanctuaries is to rescue and rehabilitate primates, there is a great potential to conduct non-invasive research. With the aim to improve the primates rehabilitation and well being in captivity and to support conservation efforts and raising awareness, Fundació MONA has established a Research Department soon after being founded.
In this Project we share some of the findings we managed to achieve over the years, either by collaborating with other researchers or our own studies: