Reamer, L. A., Neal Webb, S. J., Jones, R. et al. 2020. Validation and utility of a body condition scoring system for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). American Journal of Primatology 82(10), e23188.
Obesity is a problem in captive chimpanzee colonies that can lead to increased risk for disease; therefore, implementation of effective weight management strategies is imperative. To properly implement a weight management program, captive managers should be able to noninvasively identify and assess overweight or obese individuals. Traditional means of categorizing obese individuals involve sedating the animals to obtain body weights or skin fold measurements. The current study aimed to validate a noninvasive, subjective body condition score (BCS) system for captive chimpanzees. The system utilizes a 10‐point scale, with one rated as “emaciated,” five as “normal,” and 10 as “extremely obese.” Between 2013 and 2014, 158 chimpanzees were weighed and scored using this system (a) while sedated and (b) while awake in their social group within 1–3 days of sedation (“In‐group” ratings). We found high inter‐rater reliability between In‐group raters, as well as between sedated and In‐group scores. BCSs, which require observation only, were significantly positively correlated with weight (an objective measure of obesity often requiring anesthetization), supporting the scale's validity. The BCS system identified 36 individuals as “overweight,” while the use of weights alone identified only 26 individuals as “overweight.” Furthermore, the BCS system was able to classify individuals of the same sex and weight as having different BCSs, ranging from normal to overweight. Lastly, using focal animal behavioral observations from 2016 to 2018 (N = 120), we found that In‐group BCS predicted individual levels of inactive behavior more than 2 years later, demonstrating the predictive validity of the scale. These results illustrate the utility of the BCS system as a noninvasive, reliable, and valid technique that may be more sensitive than traditional methods in identifying and quantifying obesity in chimpanzees. This system can be a useful tool for captive managers to monitor and manage the weight of chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates.