Abstract # 71:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 19, 2009 06:30 PM-09:00 PM: Session 5 (Mission Bay Ballroom CDE) Poster Presentation


EXAMINING THE ROLE OF CAPTIVITY IN WESTERN LOWLAND GORILLAS (GORILLA GORILLA GORILLA) THROUGH BEHAVIORAL OBSERVATIONS AND FECAL CORTISOL COLLECTION.

B. K. Smith, S. R. Williams and M. J. Remis
Purdue University, Department of Anthropology, Stone Hall, Room 219, 700 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
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Gorillas have recently been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, vulnerable to hunting and disease and historically difficult to maintain in captivity. Living conditions for captive gorillas have improved but there are still behavioral issues associated with captivity (i.e. regurgitation/reingestion – R/R) and unique captive situations (e.g. construction noise) that could potentially influence behavior and produce physiological responses. This study explores the possible relationships that may exist between the captive setting, stress behaviors and fecal cortisol among gorillas at the San Francisco Zoo (SFZ). 195 fecal samples and 143 hours of behavioral data were collected on 5 gorillas [1 silverback, 4 females] from June 30 to August 10, 2007. In general, abnormal behaviors among SFZ gorillas were rare [Χ2, n=9444, p<0.001] and gorillas behaved in a species typical manner. Cortisol levels were generally low and did not correspond to captivity-associated stress behaviors such as R/R [i.e. silverback - Pearson correlation behavioral and cortisol levels: -0.025, p<0.006], though cortisol peaks were found to be associated with unusual events including construction [i.e. silverback – Linear Regression: β=0.240, p<0.001]. This study suggests that the management strategies used for the SFZ gorillas, including large amounts of browse and continuous indoor access, could act as a guide for other zoos aiming to reduce abnormal behaviors and mitigate the effects of stress.