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                                                                                                 Hilda Tresz                          Global Volunteer Work

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Bejing Zoo  

December 10-13, 2014


The purpose of this visit was to introduce Chabo, a male chimpanzee on loan from Japan, to two females (Nannan and Yaya) for breeding purposes.




Chabo, Nannan and Yaya (sorry, not portrait picture was available of Yaya)




Feifei and Moli


Anitte and Anok (Laoer)

Qiqi and Sisi

No. 1

Nannan F  12


Yaya   F  15

No. 2

Chabo M unknown

No. 3

Place for intro


No. 4

Feifei  M  28

Moli   F  30



No. 5


No. 6

Anok  F  28

Annite F  28

No. 9

Occupied by an orangutan

No. 8


No. 7

Qiqi  M  4

Sisi   F  4 




Feifei was the group’s original alpha male. Due to siring many offspring (Nannan, Yaya, Qiqi, Sisi), Chabo was brought in to start a new bloodline; however, during prior introductions, there seemed to be elevated aggression between the two adult females and the new, younger male. They teamed up against him and often chased him away, not willing to breed.

The zoo also had two infant chimpanzees, Qiqi and Sisi, separated from their parents and being hand-reared due to their mothers lacking milk. In the opinion of the staff, reintroduction was not favorable, because one of the females killed a baby several years ago.

These circumstances altered the original plan. After careful consideration, it was decided that first Chabo would be introduced to the infants. If the adult females were hostile towards him, it would have given him a good chance to build a buddy system and the three of them could protect each other. The infants were transported from the end of the building (No. 7) into an empty introduction cage (No. 3) and housed inside the two smaller cages within his enclosure (No. 3 and b). These cages were made of bars so the infants could see everything and have partial tactile access to the adults. Chabo was accessed to cages No. 2 and No. 3.

The introduction went well, but needed to slow down for several reasons. Since the infants grew up without parents, they were lacking social skills. Qiqi, the young male was braver, initiating a lot of contact, but he did not know how to behave in the presence of a big male. He did not show proper submissive behaviors. Although Chabo received a lot of quasi-aggressive behaviors from him, being “teased” and “bothered” by him (usually Qiqi poking him, throwing substrate at him, hitting him from behind, etc.), he tolerated Qigi’s behaviors well and remained relaxed. Sisi on the other hand, was very frightened of Chabo, vocalized a lot or sat on the floor hugging straw and rocking. Obviously all three of them needed some time to adjust and bond. They were together for half days every day and separated at night.


In the meantime, in the mornings Chabo was introduced by dyadic introductions to the females. Separating the two females prevented their teamwork and extra aggression. During the introductions, the two infants were locked inside their cages and could follow developments.

The introductions worked well and Chabo bred with both females several times separately. Once they established a good relationship as couples, the three of them were put together. They have been getting along well ever since.

During the morning, Chabo was with the two females. In the afternoon, he was with the two infants, and then separated at night. The females had the mornings to interact with Qiqi and Sisi, while Chabo technically spent the entire day with them until the keeper went home.

Unfortunately, after I left on December 16, the chimpanzees got into a small fight and Chabo bit Qiqi. It happened during shifting Chabo from the two adult females to the infants. When the shifting gate opened, Chabo ran towards Qiqi, bit his right eye and bit his right wrist and shoulder. Sisi was crying and rocking during it. Currently the two babies are separated into their smaller cages and Chabo is together with the two females. The infants’ two small cages were furnished after the separation.

Suggestions: It is very difficult to give an educated suggestion when one did not see the events happen; however, in theory; the infants should not be separated from Chabo just because they had a fight. Chimpanzees will fight all the time and will receive small wounds periodically, especially during circumstances when animals lack social skills. None of these animals know how to behave properly. In any case, there are several things that can be tried:

        Chabo can be put together with the infants again and see how they do after their first fight. Unless Chabo tried to kill Qiqi (which he clearly did not, otherwise he would have) a reintroduction should take place. Chabo was probably reprimanding Qiqi for something improper he did (unintentionally), although that is only speculation.

        Chabo can be put with one of the females and the infants can be introduced to the other female. Hopefully they like each other and bond. If they do, leave them together for a while and then the second adult female can be introduced to this group of three. If the first adult female did not like the infants that much, then the other female could be introduced instead. One of the females must like (hopefully) the infants. Once one of the adult females bonded with the infants, she will protect them from Chabo or from the other female, if necessary. 

        If nobody will take the responsibility for further introductions, the infants should be moved into the two adult females’ large cage (No. 1). This cage has a small window with the adjacent cage (No. 2) through which the animals can still partially interact. Chabo and the females can have (No. 2) and (No. 3) together.

        Within a few months, the chimpanzees need to be introduced into a larger group. They are infants and they need surrogate parents.

Substrate and furniture

The cages were lacking flaxible furniure and substrate. Prior to the introduction, hammocks and tires were hung and all cages were filled with straw to cover the concrete.



Suggestions: Begin keeping animals off of unyielding surfaces (brick, concrete, etc.). The use of appropriate substrate (inside – paper products, hay or straw, etc.; outside – nonflammable materials such as grass, sand, soil, mulch, fresh browse, etc.) will make a significant difference not only in the animals’ mental and physical health, but also in the improvement of the exhibit aesthetics. Using substrate will reduce cleaning time and water consumption, as well. Soaking, scrubbing and hosing dry waste takes much longer than spot cleaning substrate due to the substrate’s ability to absorb urine and cover fecal matter. Reducing hosing and partially covering surface with substrate will overcome any of these obstacles and provide animals with a soft surface. In China, paper products are toxic, but pet-safe, eco-friendly products (bags, wrapping papers, boxes, burlap bags, etc.) are available online. Please review samples:

It would also be advantageous to build double sliding doors (one being solid and the other one bars and mesh) to make future introductions easier. The night houses and the exhibit can be connected with a “Round Robin” system, allowing animals to move about in circular ways and not just a linear fashion. This system can be used for all other species as well and would help with introductions or with shifting animals more easily and quickly.


Winter Care

Chimpanzees can be allowed outside for limited time during the winter; however, they need to have access to inside heat and provided with extra blankets. Some institutions keep to a temperature guideline and will only let their chimpanzees out if the temperature reaches 10-13 C, while others, such as Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, USA, allow the chimpanzees to make their own decision. It is important to remember to provide chimpanzees the opportunity to seek warmth if allowed outdoor access during cold weather, and there might be a temperature so low that outdoor access is inappropriate. The only time they don't allow them outside is when heavy, wet snow reduces the voltage on their electric fence.

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csnw chimpanzee snow

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Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, U.K.              Saint Louis Zoo, USA

See-through curtains made from heavy-duty plastic strips can be hung inside the night houses to keep the animals warm. Management must take into consideration the type of enclosure, the animals’ behavior and characteristics, the materials used, if it would prevent the animals from exiting or entering the enclosure, etc. 

Suggestions: The method used by the Chester Zoo, England is simple. Strips of thick, clear ARCO PVC is cut to the length of the slide and the holes are drilled in the PVC. A strong, thick metal plate, which has the same amount of holes drilled in it, is lined up and bolted onto the wall. This makes it a lot easier to take off and replace the broken or torn PVC strips. 


General Propositions


Suggestions: Browse should be provided at least every 2 – 3 days, but if possible, every day for the animals. The zoo would benefit by planting edible trees, bushes and even crops inside and outside of exhibits and along visitor pathways. The bushes can provide future browsing materials for growing collection demands. Whether cut by staff or available by natural damage, fallen vegetation of approved browse plants can be used rather than wasted.


Automatic Watering System

Beijing has a good automatic watering system. They should share the knowledge with other Chinese zoos.


General Information


The majority of time was spent with the chimpanzee integrations; therefore, there were not many opportunities to look around and address other needs. However, it seemed like most animals were locked inside during winter time. Some of these animals may not need to be held inside for several months. Since all of them could not be addressed onsite, over a hundred husbandry manuals, Species Survival Plan manuals, studbook information, books in downloaded formats, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and African Association of Zoos and Aquaria accreditation standards and articles, PowerPoint presentations, etc. were provided to offer correct information and continue with improvements.

Elephant Care

A short visit was made to the elephant area. Elephants were locked inside traditional concrete barns with no enrichment. The Phoenix Zoo’s Elephant Enrichment PowerPoint presentation was shown to the elephant staff describing how this enrichment program helped the Phoenix Zoo to have mentally healthier elephants. It also addressed some of the foot work helping to keep Phoenix Zoo elephants’ feet in better shape and preventing all suffering that wet concrete can cause.

The elephant staff has already made some very important changes! Not only are the animals enjoying new mesh and barrel puzzle feeders and logs, but also by having these new enrichment opportunities, a new and invaluable educational opportunity is being provided to all visitors.



I would like to thank Animals Asia Foundation for funding and organizing this trip and establishing such a wonderful, working relationship between the Jane Goodall Institute, the Phoenix Zoo and the Beijing Zoo.



Hilda Tresz

Behavioral Enrichment & International Animal Welfare Coordinator

Mentor, The Jane Goodall Institute


Phoenix Zoo | Arizona Center for Nature Conservation

455 N. Galvin Parkway | Phoenix, AZ 85008

p 602.286.3800 x 7120 | d 602.286.3820

htresz@phoenixzoo.org | phoenixzoo.org




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