What do great apes need for a quality life in human care?
Some of the things captive apes require for their physical and mental well-being are:
- Access to species appropriate social groupings
- Large enclosures with outdoor access and lots of vertical space for climbing, brachiating and nesting
- Access to temperature controlled indoor holding areas
- Access to materials for nest building (if applicable)
- Routine care by veterinarian that specializes in non-human primate medicine An enrichment program that elicits species appropriate behaviors and prevents abnormal behaviors
- A proper diet that meets nutritional requirements
The USDA oversees captive nonhuman primates. Anyone housing a nonhuman primate must meet the minimum requirements as specified by the USDA's Animal Welfare Regulations. Many private owners, circuses, and roadside zoos can not and do not provide nonhuman primates with these minimum requirements, and although these private owners are often cited by the USDA for failure to do so, penalties for violations are often not strict enough to incite change. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is working with different vertebrate Taxon Advisory Groups (TAG's) and Species Survival Plans (SSP's) to create Animal Care Manuals that contain guidelines for properly housing all vertebrate species (http://www.lpzoo.org/chimp-ssp/). These guidelines will most likely greatly exceed the minimums set by the USDA and will become the standard upon which zoo husbandry programs will be based.