Health, welfare and conservation

Healthy cardiovascular biomarkers across the lifespan in wild-born chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Cole, M.F., Cantwell, A., Rukundo, J. Ajarova, L., Fernandez-Navarro, S., Atencia, R. & Rosati, A.G. (2020). Healthy cardiovascular biomarkers across the lifespan in wild-born chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375: 20190609.

[PDF] [Supplementary] [Publisher’s version] Abstract
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are a crucial model for understanding the evolution of human health and longevity. Cardiovascular disease is a major source of mortality during aging in humans and therefore a key issue for comparative research. Current data indicates that compared to humans, chimpanzees have proatherogenic blood lipid profiles, an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease in humans. However, most work to date on chimpanzee lipids come from laboratory-living populations where lifestyles diverge from a wild context. Here we examined cardiovascular profiles in chimpanzees living in African sanctuaries, who semi-free-range in large forested enclosures, consume a naturalistic diet, and generally experience conditions more similar to a wild chimpanzee lifestyle. We measured blood lipids, body weight, and body fat in 75 sanctuary chimpanzees and compared them to publicly-available data from laboratory-living chimpanzees from the Primate Aging Database. We found that semi-free-ranging chimpanzees exhibited lower body weight and lower levels of lipids that are risk factors for human cardiovascular disease, and that some of these disparities increased with age. Our findings support the hypothesis that lifestyle can shape health indices in chimpanzees, similar to effects observed across human populations, and contribute to an emerging understanding of human cardiovascular health in evolutionary context.

Insights from evolutionarily-relevant models for human ageing

Emery Thompson, M., Rosati, A.G., Snyder-Mackler, N. (2020). Insights from evolutionarily-relevant models for human ageing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375: 20190605.

[PDF] [Publisher’s version] Abstract
As the world confronts the health challenges of an aging population, there has been dramatically increased interest in the science of aging. This research has overwhelmingly focused on age-related disease, particularly in industrialized human populations and short-lived laboratory animal models. However, it has become clear that humans and long-lived primates age differently than many typical model organisms, and that many of the diseases causing death and disability in the developed world are greatly exacerbated by modern lifestyles. As such, research on how the human aging process evolved is vital to understanding the origins of prolonged human lifespan and factors increasing vulnerability to degenerative disease. In this issue, we highlight emerging comparative research on primates, highlighting the physical, physiological, behavioural, and cognitive processes of aging. This work comprises data and theory on non-human primates, as well as underrepresented data on humans living in small-scale societies, which help elucidate how environment shapes senescence. Component papers address (1) the critical processes that comprise senescence in long-lived primates; (2) the social, ecological, or individual characteristics that predict variation in the pace of aging; and (3) the complicated relationship between aging trajectories and disease outcomes. Collectively, this work provides essential comparative, evolutionary data on aging and demonstrates its unique potential to inform our understanding of the human aging process.

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance: securing a future for the African great apes

Stokes, R., Tully, G., & Rosati, A. G. (2018). Pan African Sanctuary Alliance: securing a future for the African great apes. International Zoo Yearbook, 52, 1-9.

[PDF] [Publisher’s Version] Abstract
The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) is the unified voice of primate rescue and rehabilitation pro- jects in Africa, and includes 23 member organizations in 13 countries. PASA improves animal welfare by regularly evaluating these sanctuaries to ensure that they operate at a high standard of care, building the capacity of sanctuary staff and providing crisis support to mitigate emergencies. Moreover, PASA works with its member organizations to raise awareness globally about wildlife issues and to conduct other large-scale conservation projects. In these endeavours, PASA ben- efits greatly from the local experience and connections of its member organizations. Finally, nearly all PASA- member sanctuaries host researchers, thereby contribut- ing to our knowledge of the great apes and other Afri- can primates. Much of PASA’s work is made possible by support from zoos around the world. A brief precis of the current work carried out by PASA and its mem- ber organizations is given, along with descriptions of conservation programmes that are planned for the future.

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance: Primate welfare, conservation, and research

Stokes, R., Tully, G., & Rosati, A. (2017). Pan African Sanctuary Alliance: Primate welfare, conservation, and research. African Primates, 12: 59-64.

[PDF] [Publisher’s Version]Abstract
The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), the largest association of wildlife centers in Africa, includes 22 organizations that collectively house more than 3,000 rescued primates (Table 1; Figure 1). Prior to PASA’s formation, these organizations had similar goals and were facing similar challenges, but typically did not communicate with one another. In 2000, conservationists and primatologists arranged a meeting in Uganda to bring these groups together for the first time. The directors of the organizations agreed there was a need for improved ongoing communication and, as a result, PASA was formed.

Assessing the psychological health of captive and wild apes: A response to Ferdowsian et al.

Rosati, A. G., Herrmann, E., Kaminski, J., Krupenye, C., Melis, A. P., Schroepfer, K., Tan, J., et al. (2013). Assessing the psychological health of captive and wild apes: A response to Ferdowsian et al. (2011). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 127, 329–336.

[PDF]  [Publisher’s Version]  Abstract

As many studies of cognition and behavior involve captive animals, assessing any psychological impact of captive conditions is an important goal for comparative researchers. Ferdowsian and colleagues (2011) sought to address whether captive chimpanzees show elevated signs of psychopathology relative to wild apes. They modified a checklist of diagnostic criteria for major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder in humans, and applied these criteria to various captive and wild chimpanzee populations. We argue that measures derived from human diagnostic criteria are not a powerful tool for assessing the psychological health of nonverbal animals. In addition, we highlight certain methodological drawbacks of the specific approach used by Ferdowsian and colleagues (2011). We propose that research should (1) focus on objective behavioral criteria that account for species-typical behaviors and can be reliably identified across populations; (2) account for population differences in rearing history when comparing how current environment impacts psychological health in animals; and (3) focus on how changes in current human practices can improve the well-being of both captive and wild animals.

Use of “entertainment” chimpanzees in commercials distorts public perception regarding their conservation status

Schroepfer, K. K., Rosati, A. G., Chartrand, T., & Hare, B. (2011). Use of “entertainment” chimpanzees in commercials distorts public perception regarding their conservation status. PLoS One, 6 e26048.

[PDF]  [Publisher’s Version] 

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are often used in movies, commercials and print advertisements with the intention of eliciting a humorous response from audiences. The portrayal of chimpanzees in unnatural, human-like situations may have a negative effect on the public’s understanding of their endangered status in the wild while making them appear as suitable pets. Alternatively, media content that elicits a positive emotional response toward chimpanzees may increase the public’s commitment to chimpanzee conservation. To test these competing hypotheses, participants (n = 165) watched a series of commercials in an experiment framed as a marketing study. Imbedded within the same series of commercials was one of three chimpanzee videos. Participants either watched 1) a chimpanzee conservation commercial, 2) commercials containing ‘‘entertainment’’ chimpanzees or 3) control footage of the natural behavior of wild chimpanzees. Results from a post- viewing questionnaire reveal that participants who watched the conservation message understood that chimpanzees were endangered and unsuitable as pets at higher levels than those viewing the control footage. Meanwhile participants watching commercials with entertainment chimpanzees showed a decrease in understanding relative to those watching the control footage. In addition, when participants were given the opportunity to donate part of their earnings from the experiment to a conservation charity, donations were least frequent in the group watching commercials with entertainment chimpanzees. Control questions show that participants did not detect the purpose of the study. These results firmly support the hypothesis that use of entertainment chimpanzees in the popular media negatively distorts the public’s perception and hinders chimpanzee conservation efforts.
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