Kurtycz, L. M., Wagner, K. E., Ross, S. R. 2014. The choice to access outdoor areas affects the behavior of great apes. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 17(3), 185–197.

Outdoor access is often cited as a critical component of appropriate housing for great apes in captivity, and although studies have shown that offering primates choices can improve welfare, choice to access specific areas has been empirically neglected. Behavioral data were collected on chimpanzees and gorillas housed in naturalistic enclosures while (a) restricted to an indoor enclosure and (b) permitted free access to an adjacent outdoor area. To isolate the factor of choice, only the sessions in which apes remained indoors were compared. With choice, chimpanzees showed more frequent social, F(1, 5) = 20.526, p = .006, and self-directed behaviors, F(1, 5) = 13.507, p = .014, and lower inactivity levels, F(1, 5) = 9.239, p = .029. Gorillas were more frequently inactive, F(1, 8) = 22.259, p = .002, and produced lower levels of object manipulation, F(1, 8) = 8.243, p = .021, and feeding, F(1, 8) = 5.407, p = .049. Results are consistent with an association between choice and the expression of species-typical and arousal behaviors in chimpanzees. The effects are less evident in gorillas, but this outcome may be buffered by the species’ lower motivation to utilize the outdoor spaces. Findings highlight species-specific reactions to access to choice that may offer insight for enclosure design, management, and nonhuman animal welfare.