Is music enriching for group-housed captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)?

Emma K. Wallace, Drew Altschul, Karoline Korfer, Benjamin Benti, Amanda Kaeser, Susan Lambeth, Bridget M. Waller, Katie E. Slocombe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Many facilities that house captive primates play music for animal enrichment or for caregiver enjoyment. However, the impact on primates is unknown as previous studies have been inconclusive. We conducted three studies with zoo-housed chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and one with group-housed chimpanzees at the National Centre for Chimpanzee Care to investigate the effects of classical and pop/rock music on various variables that may be indicative of increased welfare. Study one compared the behaviour and use of space of 18 animals when silence, classical or pop/rock music was played into one of several indoor areas. Overall, chimpanzees did not actively avoid the area when music was playing but were more likely to exit the area when songs with higher beats per minute were broadcast. Chimpanzees showed significantly fewer active social behaviours when music, rather than silence, was playing. They also tended to be more active and engage in less abnormal behaviour during the music but there was no change to either self-grooming or aggression between music and silent conditions. The genre of music had no differential effects on the chimpanzees' use of space and behaviour. In the second study, continuous focal observations were carried out on three individuals with relatively high levels of abnormal behaviour. No differences in behaviour between music and silence periods were found in any of the individuals. The final two studies used devices that allowed chimpanzees to choose if they wanted to listen to music of various types or silence. Both studies showed that there were no persistent preferences for any type of music or silence. When taken together, our results do not suggest music is enriching for group-housed captive chimpanzees, but they also do not suggest that music has a negative effect on welfare.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0172672
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • environmental enrichment
  • auditory enrichment
  • wild chimpanzees
  • behavior
  • welfare
  • aggression
  • gorillas
  • primates


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