Where Do Chimpanzees Sleep?

November 27, 2023

Sleep plays a critical role in regulating both body and behavioral functions and thus is a critical component of chimpanzee health. Unfortunately, chimpanzees in captivity often lack choice and control over with whom they sleep at night or the environmental conditions in which they sleep. This is particularly true for those living in indoor facilities that are smaller than their outdoor enclosures used during the day.

At the Sanctuary, we strive to provide our chimpanzees with conditions as close as possible to their natural environments. Each of our large ape habitats includes attached night rooms equipped with high nesting areas, hammocks and beds. The rooms are also heated during the winter and strong enough to withstand Florida’s summer rainstorms. And each room is monitored 24-hours a day so that staff can see and hear their residents throughout the night.

Our research focuses on the factors that influence chimpanzee nocturnal activity and sleep quality at the Sanctuary. We use a range of methodologies including behavioral observations, economic audio recordings, and a novel architectural design to explore these topics. Specifically, we have found that the frequency and intensity of nocturnal disturbances influence both sleep and daytime behaviors of TSWR chimpanzees the following morning. Disturbed chimpanzees are more likely to be inactive and spend less time on affiliative or self-directed activities.

In addition, we are assessing the effect of tree architecture and individual characteristics on chimpanzee sleeping choices. We have found that chimpanzees prefer trees with structural properties such as compact morphology, lateral drooping, and short internode distances – traits typically associated with a canopy of dense leaves and tripod-shaped branchings. We have also found that a specific architectural model (model of Koriba) is preferentially selected by TSWR chimpanzees as a sleeping site, being chosen for 90.0% of all selected trees compared to the next most popular model (model of Troll, characterized by Albizia).


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