Padrell, M., Amici, F., Córdoba, M. P. et al. 2021. Artificial termite-fishing tasks as enrichment for sanctuary-housed chimpanzees: Behavioral effects and impact on welfare. Animals 11(10), 2941.
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.