We are conducting research to find methods that would enable us to keep chimpanzees in our care as close as possible to replicate their lifestyle in the wild. We are focusing our research to enrich their physical and social environment. Enrichment with the aim to create a social structure based around large numbers of chimpanzees. Our research revolves specifically examining the formation and maintenance of multi-male as well as a multi-male-multi-female group in order to simulate fission-fusion. Enclosures built in different locations connected with mesh-constructed corridors are built to investigate negotiations involving foraging among adjacent groups. We are also busy with conducting a number of related projects, including developing of new feeders and enrichment devices.
The impact of stress and captive environment on behavior
It is said that captive chimpanzees suffer from various types of stress. Accordingly, we are evaluating the impact of short term stress with special focus on sleeping patterns. In addition, we are conducting research into longer-term impacts of stress through evaluation of kinetic and cognitive functioning in chimpanzees. We aim to identify and clarify the factors in an available captive environment that would be required to encourage the reduction or cessation of unusual (abnormal) behavioral patterns, where chimpanzees learn to develop for example, better object manipulation skills needed for everyday functioning, and then facilitate the acquisition of skills such as social negotiation.
The geriatric approach
Thirty years has passed since the first chimpanzee brought to captivity in Japan. Today the number of aging chimpanzees is increasing. Since chimpanzees are closely related to humans, they are susceptible to many similar diseases. We are researching whether such big problems as arteriosclerosis and dementia in modern human society will also appear in chimpanzees. If they do appear, then what kind of symptoms or health problems will develop?