Abnormal behaviors and welfare

January 2017 Animal Welfare Hot Topic

Are all abnormal behaviors equally reliable indicators of negative welfare?

For this quarter’s Hot Topics in Welfare feature, we provide an overview of a paper recently published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science: Reconsidering coprophagy as an indicator of negative welfare for captive chimpanzees by Lydia Hopper, Hani Freeman, and Stephen Ross of The Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Coprophagy is often considered an abnormal behavior when observed among captive chimpanzees. However, unlike other abnormal behaviors, coprophagy is more commonly performed by mother-raised chimpanzees than those with atypical rearing histories (e.g., human-reared). The results of this new study support this and further demonstrate that coprophagy is more closely linked to positive social behaviors such as grooming than abnormal behaviors (e.g., abnormal body movements). Hopper and colleagues suggest that coprophagy may represent a socially-learned behavior and may not be as reliable an indicator of an individual’s negative welfare as other abnormal behaviors.

Download a presentation on this topic created by Lydia Hopper, Sarah Jacobson, and Stephen Ross of Lincoln Park Zoo for study details, references, and more photos.

Cite this work:

Hopper, L. M., Freeman, H. D., Ross, S. R. 2016. Reconsidering coprophagy as an indicator of negative welfare for captive chimpanzees. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 176:112-119. 

 

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Young chimpanzees at North Carolina Zoo observe and interact with older group-mates while they eat. Social proximity in chimpanzees encourages social learning.