Development of guidelines for assessing obesity in captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

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Abstract

Many captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are subjectively considered to be overweight or obese. However, discussions of obesity in chimpanzees are rare in the literature, despite the acknowledged problem. No study to date has systematically examined obesity in captive chimpanzees. This project develops guidelines for defining obesity in captive chimpanzees through the examination of morphometric and physiologic characteristics in 37 adult female and 22 adult male chimpanzees. During each animal's biannual physical exam, morphometric data was collected including seven skinfolds (mm), body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and total body weight (kg). The morphometric characteristics were correlated with triglycerides and serum glucose concentration, to test the utility of morphometrics in predicting relative obesity in captive chimpanzees. Abdominal skinfold (triglyceride: F=3.83, P=0.05; glucose: F=3.83, P=0.05) and BMI (triglyceride: F=10.42, p=0.003; glucose: F=6.20, P=0.02) were predictive of increased triglycerides and serum glucose in females; however no morphometric characteristics were predictive of relative obesity in males. Results suggest that no males in this population are overweight or obese. For females, there were additional significant differences in morphometric (skinfolds, BMI, WHR, total body weight) and physiologic measurements (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, red blood cells) between individuals classified overweight and those classified non-overweight. Skinfold measurements, particularly abdominal, seem to be an accurate measure of obesity and thus potential cardiovascular risk in female chimpanzees, but not males. By establishing a baseline for estimated body fat composition in female captive chimpanzees, institutions can track individuals empirically determined to be obese, as well as obesity-related health problems. Zoo Biol 0:1–12, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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