In Japan, there are 340 chimpanzees in 52
institutions. Unlike chimpanzees in Western countries, most of chimpanzees
in Japan reside in zoos. As of now, there are no or almost no privately
owned individuals as pets nor for entertainment reasons but no chimpanzee
sanctuary exists for their care and welfare.
Number of individuals residing in institutions
Only 4% of 52 institutions keep more than 16 chimpanzees, and even with
institutions that keep more than 11 chimpanzees, this accounts for only
8%. 35% of 57 institutions keep 5-10 chimpanzees, 40% keep 2-4 and 13%
keep only one chimpanzee.
Moreover, regardless of the number of individuals that
reside in an institution, a chimpanzee may not be kept with other chimpanzees
in a group but kept in individual cages. There also exist institutions
that do not keep chimpanzees as a group at all.
Comparing to a fact that a wild chimpanzee group may contain 20-100 individuals,
it is unquestionable that chimpanzees in Japan reside in a environment
that is very different from how it is supposed to be.
As breeding programs progress, the number of chimpanzee
in Japan is reaching the limit of current holding capacity conditions.
Some institutions are limiting the breeding program itself. However, here
are the problems that arise.
In 1988, for the purpose of conserving rare animals, the Japanese
Association of Zoos and Aquariums(JAZA) established the Species Survival
Committee (SSCJ) as the support organization of the Board of Directors.
Chimpanzees are listed as rare animals in captivity in Japan, and are
considered for propagation plans including breeding loans with institutions
other than JAZA under the coordination of the Stud Book keeper. Annual
surveys are conducted for this document.
program with consideration for "subspecies" level identification
Since it is hard to distinguish chimpanzee
subspecies morphologically, the care for chimpanzee under captivity had
not giving much attention to the matter of hybridyzation until maternal
molecular phylogenetic analysis using mitochondrial DNA became available.
Nationwide subspecies identification was conducted in 2001, and the results
showed that one third of the chimpanzees in Japan are hybrids (about 60%
are Pan troglodytes verus and a few are Pt schweinfurthii
and Pt troglodytes troglodytes).
In order to preserve chimpanzees at the
subspecies level, it is necessary to put efforts into producing no more
hybrids. To put this plan into practice, each institution (that keeps
chimpanzees under captivity) needs to have a care management system that
secures birth control (use of pill, inplant, pipecut etc,). Controlled
breeding is a must, yet it is important to establish QOL (Quality Of Life)
to provide appropriate husbandry for the existing hybrid chimpanzees.
or "Paired" captive environment to "Group" living
In classical zoos, since cages were lined up next to each
other, chimpanzees were often kept as a male female pair. After the discovery
of social life of wild chimpanzees that live in groups, zoos that could
afford the space, changed their exhibit design so that captive chimpanzees
could also live as groups. However, for various reasons, many zoos are
unable to provide such environments.
considering "Genetic diversity"
Since wild chimpanzees live in groups
and have a social life, when kept as a pair in zoos, it is understandable
that breeding doesn't occur easily. Naturally, at zoos, more offspring
that are bred among chimpanzees who are kept in groups exist now. Furthermore,
there are more offspring of actively reproducing individuals. This has
resulted in the current skewed gene pool. If this continues, there will
be many individuals that are close relatives to each other.
To conserve "genetic diversity" of captive
chimpanzees in Japan, it is important to avoid inbreeding and make efforts
to balance the reproductive output and genetic representation of all individuals
by providing an environment that allows for this.
Easy to say, hard to do. All sorts of difficulties will emerge when trying
to provide an environment that enables never bred individuals to breed.
For example, transferring chimpanzees may be problematic due to the number
or the size of the holding area, or there may be social skill problems
that disable breeding such as incompetence in pairing or difficulty being
introduced to a group. Besides, in the case of hand-reared individuals,
since he/she has never had a chance to learn how to breed or rearing infants
(which is usually learned when brought up in a social group), he/she may
not be able to do so appropriately.
It is the law of nature that founding chimpanzees of most
colonies are getting old, which means that their breeding ability is declining.
(Due to CITES in 1980, importing chimpanzees has become difficult and
is no longer happening. There is no possibility to import wild chimpanzees
to Japan in the future) Founding chimpanzees who possess precious genes
that can help to maintain genetic diversity are getting old without leaving
offspring. As an emergent situation, we may need to utilize artificial
breeding in the future.
Artificial breeding techniques include artificial insemination,
transplantation of fertilized eggs and external fertilization. In Japan,
since Kyoto University Primate Research Institute (KUPRI) succeeded in
artificial insemination in1982, many zoos have began to practice artificial
breeding. Artificial breeding of chimpanzees is now becoming a well-established
technique. However, there is a dilemma; artificially bred infants are
often abandoned, and are hand-reared which means that herself/himself
becomes an adult who may not be able to give or rear a child. So, after
artificial breeding succeeds and an infant is born, it is necessary to
provide a suitable educational program and environment so that the individual
can learn social skills at each level of development. There is also the
problem of providing space for newborn. Considering all of the above and
the welfare of individuals, even though it is a priority, conserving species
by breeding individuals may not be the only solution or may not be enough
to solve the problem quick enough.
A gene bank may be the ultimate solution. Isn't it about
time that we discuss in detail about preserving sperm and eggs of phylogenetically
important individuals for future breeding? Of course this cannot be accomplished
by one institution alone, zoos and researchers need to collaborate to
conserve a wider variety of genes.
Care with consideration
in "environmental enrichment"
Public awareness of evolutionary background,
mental ability and society of chimpanzee is growing rapidly. Major zoos
do not only keep chimpanzees in groups but also try to provide environment
in which chimpanzees can be more active. It is important that caregivers
and managers of institutions deepen their understanding of the natural
life of wild chimpanzees and apply and practice their knowledge in the
care and display of chimpanzees.
Nevertheless, in Japan, there still are
many institutions where chimpanzees reside alone or in pairs. (Of course
to transform an institution to keep chimpanzees in groups costs a lot.)
Even at zoos whose existing exhibits are the classical lined up cages,
it is meaningful to think about and apply ideas so that chimpanzees can
spend more a lively daily existence.
Network of chimpanzee
Thanks to the efforts of many people
trying to create a Stud Book and to identify individuals at the subspecies
level, we are more aware of each individual chimpanzee. Obtaining more
information such as the nationwide condition of the captive chimpanzee
environment (e.g. number of holding areas, are they kept alone or in pairs,
future plans etc.,) will help in dealing with the diverse problems that
we may face in the future. Moreover, collecting information on caregiving
techniques, it will be helpful in solving problems such as group introduction,
infant abandonment and artificial breeding.
Why are there individually kept chimpanzees and surplus
1. Each chimpanzee has a unique personality
and sometimes is unable to get along well with others.
Just like us humans, chimpanzees have unique personalities.
Sometimes, they cannot be friendly to each other. Especially under captivity,
serious injury occurs due to the difficulty of escaping or the lack of
appropriate hiding places during conflicts. To prevent such incidences,
the bully or the weak individual may be isolated and forced to live alone.
Also, under the captive environment where space
is limited, it is physically difficult to keep several adult males together.
When growing up, males try to become the dominant in a group. They start
showing display behaviors such as banging on things or running around
dragging things. They may start to fight with specific individuals but
this may end up involving unrelated individuals. Again, in captive environments
where space is limited, serious injury can occur and to avoid this, adult
males may have to be isolated from each other.
Such isolated individuals are treated as "surplus" and wait
in line to be transferred to other institutions. However, considering
sex, age and subspecies of such isolated individual, transfers can be
difficult and take much time.
2. A chimpanzee may have spent too
much time with humans making it difficult for them to learn to live with
After retiring from use in the entertainment industry,
a chimpanzee is often kept alone.
In general, chimpanzees we see on TV shows or events are
2-6 years old. A retired chimp(this decided by humans) is usually transferred
to a zoo or kept alone away from the public.
In order to train a chimp to be used in a show, it is isolated from its
mother while still an infant and hand raised so that they are comfortable
with humans. They establish a one-on-one relationship with a trainer.
However, the time that they are "cute and cuddly" and safe to
humans is very short. By 10years of age, a chimp's strength becomes more
powerful than a human's and is hard to have control over. When we feel
we don't have the control over them, chimps are retired. There are cases
that such chimpanzees are introduced to groups, but most of the time,
since they spent much of their time with humans from a very young age,
they never have a chance to learn the rules of chimpanzee society, and
cannot be introduced to groups. If this is the case, they are forced to
spend the rest of their life in isolation. Considering that chimps live
40-50 years, they must spend the majority of their life in such small
It is undoubtedly adorable to see dressed-up chimps behaving like humans.
Yet, it is merely selfish entertainment to please the human ego. More
importantly, we do not learn anything from watching such dressed-up cuddly
chimpanzees. Is it morally acceptable to use chimpanzees who have emotions
like us, just for such entertainment reasons? The hidden consequence is
that many chimpanzees will spend the remaining of their life alone.
3. The institution is
too small to keep chimpanzees in groups.
zoos kept animals in lined up cages just like show window displays. Animals
were kept alone or in pairs. Care management started to change as we became
aware of how animals live in the wild.
Chimpanzees in the wild live in "groups" and have a strong social
life. Institutions that can afford to, alter their exhibits so that they
can keep chimps in "groups". However, this involves altering
the exhibit, and that costs a lot of money. There are still many institutions
who keep animals in the traditional way.
Difficulties that each institutions face are most of the
time not overcome by the institution alone. Slowly, nation wide collaboration
is beginning to take place, yet even such collaboration within Japan is
not enough to solve many of the problems that exist.