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Am J Primatol. 2005 Nov;67(3):281-98.

Fifty years of chimpanzee demography at Taronga Park Zoo.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


There has been a captive Pan troglodytes colony at Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney, Australia, since the mid-1930s. Demographic data on these animals were first analyzed in 1986; however, further information collected for 15 years since then is now available. The reproductive histories of 33 females in the colony have been recorded, and these data form the largest collection of captive chimpanzee data from a setting that has involved natural breeding conditions since the mid-1960s. These data were analyzed in conjunction with data from wild populations to establish the degree of variability present within chimpanzee reproductive parameters, and to identify which distinctive life history characteristics persist in well-provisioned, natural-fertility populations. The age at first birth for the chimpanzee females is 9.8 yr on average (n=16), which is 1-4.8 yr earlier than the average for wild populations. In line with this accelerated reproduction, birth intervals are also significantly shorter than those in noncaptive chimpanzee populations. The median birth interval for all surviving infants (based on a Kaplan-Meier survival analysis) is 49 months (n=43) compared to 62+ months for wild groups. At the same time, infant mortality remains high. The data confirm distinctive features of the life history of common chimpanzees, including later maturation, long birth intervals, a relatively invariant fertility schedule, and high juvenile mortality. However, aspects of both fertility and mortality are significantly related to social circumstances, indicating that in common chimpanzees, as in humans, life history characters may represent ecological and social adaptations rather than species-fixed characteristics.

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