Stereotypical behaviors in chimpanzees rescued from the african bushmeat and pet trade

Behav Sci (Basel). 2012 Dec 27;3(1):1-20. doi: 10.3390/bs3010001. eCollection 2013 Mar.


Many orphaned chimpanzees whose mothers are illegally killed for their meat (bushmeat) in Africa are sold as pets or kept caged at hotels and businesses to attract tourists. As a result of being separated from their mothers and other chimpanzees at an early age, and spending years in impoverished captive conditions, some of these individuals engage in abnormal behaviors, including stereotypically scratching at their flesh and repetitively rocking back and forth. This paper presents case studies of Poco and Safari, two chimpanzees who were rescued by sanctuaries after living alone on display for humans at businesses for the first 7 to 8 years of their lives. Decades after their rescue, they still engage in stereotypical behaviors as a result of the psychological and physical trauma they endured early on. This paper combines data from in depth interviews with caregivers and direct observations of abnormal behaviors to assess psychological distress in captive-living chimpanzees. Our results highlight some lesser known harms of the bushmeat trade and the detrimental life-long consequences that keeping chimpanzees as "pets" can have on their mental health.

Keywords: abnormal behaviors; bushmeat; chimpanzees; post-traumatic stress disorder; stereotypical behaviors.