Experiences during early development are influential on the lives of human and non-human primates into adulthood. The population of captive chimpanzees in the USA can provide insight into this relationship, as collectively they have experienced a wide range of exposure to both conspecifics (those raised in natal groups) and humans (those raised as personal pets or performers). Our study investigated chimpanzee exposure to humans using a continuous measure of categorization, the chimpanzee–human interaction index, and the relationship between this experience and cortisol concentrations in adulthood. Historical records and hair samples were collected from 60 chimpanzees which were socially housed in 13 zoos and sanctuaries. We found that more human exposure throughout the life of a chimpanzee was associated with higher hair cortisol concentrations in adulthood. Sex was also a significant factor affecting cortisol concentration, with male chimpanzees having higher cortisol concentrations than female chimpanzees. These results build upon the extensive literature about aversive effects of atypical social histories for chimpanzees and emphasize to managers the importance of monitoring potential negative health consequences and social deficits these individuals may exhibit.
Jacobson, S. L., Freeman, H. D., Santymire, R. M., & Ross, S. R. (2017). Atypical experiences of captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are associated with higher hair cortisol concentrations as adults. Royal Society Open Science, 4(12). https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170932