Shapiro, S. J., Reamer, L. A., Mareno, M. C. et al. 2014. Providing chimpanzees opportunities to voluntarily participate in their own care: Choice of medications. American Journal of Primatology 76(S1), 73 (37th Meeting of the American Society of Primatologists Scientific Program, Abstract #112).
Captivity often limits a primate’s ability to make meaningful choices on a daily basis. Effective captive (behavioral) management programs should provide primates with opportunities to make meaningful choices. In the present study, arthritic chimpanzees were allowed to choose which of two arthritis medications they preferred. A total of six chimpanzees were given meloxicam or ibuprofen in either blue‐or green‐colored Gatorade (three received ibuprofen in the blue‐colored liquid and the other three received meloxicam in blue‐colored liquid). An ABBA design was used, with each subject receiving both medications in the appropriate color of Gatorade. Each phase lasted for two months, and the final phase was followed by a two‐month ‘choice phase’ in which each animal could choose which color of Gatorade, and therefore, which medication, it wanted each day. Four animals made it to the choice phase and all four chimpanzees significantly preferred meloxicam to ibuprofen [x2(1)=52.0, P<0.05], regardless of the color of Gatorade in which the medication was dissolved. Preliminary behavioral analyses suggest that behavioral profiles were more species‐typical when chimpanzees could choose their medication, implicating the choice process as an important factor in welfare. Since wild chimpanzees self‐medicate (active participation in their own care), choice procedures, like the one employed in the present study, should be an extremely valuable tool that provides chimpanzees with naturalistic opportunities to actively participate in their own care.