Does proximity to the silverback increase allostatic load in zoo-housed western lowland gorilla females?

ASP Primate Welfare Award (2016): Allostatic Load

For the Spring 2017 Hot Topics in Welfare feature, we explore the research of Ashley Edes, a Ph.D. candidate at The Ohio State University. Ms. Edes was the recipient of the 2016 American Society of Primatologists’ Primate Welfare Award for her research examining allostatic load and social stress in female gorillas. Allostatic load is a composite of several biomarkers, including hormonal and immunological measures, which quantify the long-term impacts of accumulated physiological stress. For this study, Edes and colleagues examined the impacts of social proximity on allostatic load. Silverbacks can be aggressive towards females, who may be less capable of regulating their proximity to males in a captive setting. Indeed, their results showed that time spent in proximity to the silverback was positively associated with allostatic load in females. These findings have important implications for captive care of gorillas and suggest that enabling individuals to exert greater control over their social proximity may have positive benefits in reducing stress and its negative impacts on health.

Watch the presentation with a voiceover by Ashley Edes.

More information about the Primate Welfare Award is available here. Applications are due by July 14, 2017 for this year’s award, which will be announced at the 40th meeting of the American Society of Primatologists in Washington, D.C. in August. 

View a press release and video from The Ohio State University about this research here.

For more information, see:

Edes, A.N., Wolfe, B.A., Crews, D.E. (2016a). Assessing stress in zoo-housed western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) using allostatic load. International Journal of Primatology 37: 241-259.

Edes, A.N., Wolfe, B.A., Crews, D.E. (2016b). Rearing history and allostatic load in adult western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in human care. Zoo Biology 35: 167-173.