Yamanashi, Y., Teramoto, M., Morimura, N. et al. 2016. Effects of relocation and individual and environmental factors on the long-term stress levels in captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Monitoring hair cortisol and behaviors. PLoS ONE 11(7), e0160029.
Understanding the factors associated with the long-term stress levels of captive animals is important from the view of animal welfare. In this study, we investigated the effects of relocation in addition to individual and environmental factors related to social management on long-term stress level in group-living captive chimpanzees by examining behaviors and hair cortisol (HC). Specifically, we conducted two studies. The first compared changes in HC levels before and after the relocation of 8 chimpanzees (Study 1) and the second examined the relationship between individual and environmental factors and individual HC levels in 58 chimpanzees living in Kumamoto Sanctuary (KS), Kyoto University (Study 2). We hypothesized that relocation, social situation, sex, and early rearing conditions, would affect the HC levels of captive chimpanzees. We cut arm hair from chimpanzees and extracted and assayed cortisol with an enzyme immunoassay. Aggressive behaviors were recorded ad libitum by keepers using a daily behavior monitoring sheet developed for this study. The results of Study 1 indicate that HC levels increased during the first year after relocation to the new environment and then decreased during the second year. We observed individual differences in reactions to relocation and hypothesized that social factors may mediate these changes. In Study 2, we found that the standardized rate of receiving aggression, rearing history, sex, and group formation had a significant influence on mean HC levels. Relocation status was not a significant factor, but mean HC level was positively correlated with the rate of receiving aggression. Mean HC levels were higher in males than in females, and the association between aggressive interactions and HC levels differed by sex. These results suggest that, although relocation can affect long-term stress level, individuals’ experiences of aggression and sex may be more important contributors to long-term stress than relocation alone.