Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Adult-adult social play in captive chimpanzees: is it indicative of positive animal welfare?

Yumi Yamanashi, Etsuko Nogami, Migaku Teramoto, Naruki Morimura, Satoshi Hirata


Play is sometimes considered as an indicator of positive animal welfare. However, it is not yet sufficiently understood whether or not social play among adults can be considered as such an indicator because it is rare in adult animals. This study investigates the factors that influence social play in adult captive chimpanzees in order to discuss its function and use as a welfare indicator. The subjects were 37 adult chimpanzees (17 males and 20 females) living in Kumamoto Sanctuary, Kyoto University, Japan. We completed 367 h of behavioural observation of mixed-sex and all-male groups of chimpanzees between June and July 2014, and December 2014 and March 2015, respectively. We collected data on social play, social grooming (mutual and unilateral grooming), aggressive interactions, self-directed behaviours and abnormal behaviours. We checked the relationship between social play and age, sex, timing, social group formation and different social behaviours. The results reveal that social play increased in males of all-male groups compared to those of mixed-sex groups. Furthermore, we analysed behaviours in individuals from all-male groups and found that social play increased before feeding. In addition, although mutual social grooming showed a negative correlation with aggressive interactions, social play did not show such a relationship. Furthermore, social play and mutual social grooming were negatively correlated. These results suggest that social play may be used as a means to reduce social tension and that it does not necessarily indicate that the individuals formed affiliative social relationships such as mutual social grooming indicates. Therefore, although social play is important to enable the coexistence of multiple adult males who do not always get along well, we need to be cautious when interpreting social play from the view of animal welfare.

Yamanashi Y, Nogami E, Teramoto M, Morimura N, Hirata S (2017) Adult-adult social play in captive chimpanzees: is it indicative of positive animal welfare? Applied Animal Behaviour Science , doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2017.10.006