The Holly Project: Effects on Captive Chimpanzee (Pan trogolodytes) Behavior of Applying Sensory Integration Therapy

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Fall 2010

Project Description/Abstract

Captive apes often display behavioral abnormalities that may threaten their health or disrupt functioning of social groups. This research is part of an on-going project by a multi-disciplinary team that includes anthropologists, child psychologists, occupational therapists, veterinarians, and zoo personnel. My contribution to the team is as a chimpanzee behavioral specialist. This is ground-breaking research examining the effects of utilizing human behavioral therapy techniques with a captive group of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes} at the Saint Louis Zoo, with particular focus on one young adult female, Holly, who has displayed extensive atypical, autistic-like, behavior. Since 2009, we have focused on sensory integration difficulties in this individual, and have instituted a series of therapeutic interventions with the goal of alleviating some of Holly's abnormal behavior and improving the social environment of the entire group. Initial data have been promising and suggest further use of sensory integration theory is warranted. Widespread application of occupational therapy and sensory integration theory to zoological management may be possible, impacting a large captive population of chimpanzees.

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