Observation of Wild Chimpanzees and Their Habitat

Environmental enrichment aims to enhance captive animals' living environment by trying to introduce and establish conditions close to their real life in nature. In order to set clear goals for a proper enrichment process to be established in captivity, first we have to understand the wild animals and their habitat.

Since 2008 we have sent a total of 43 persons including ape researchers from Kyoto University, together with zoo caretakers in collaboration with Japanese Zoos in 5 separate occasions to Tanzania. This program was financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan, (grant 20002001 to Tetsuro Matsuzawa) the Institutional Program for Young Researcher Overseas Visits AS-HOPE by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and the training overseas visit programs at zoos.

Gombe National Park

In Gombe National Park, we have observed wild chimpanzees in various age-sex classes during day tracking. The chimpanzees are world-famous through decades of work by Dr. Jane Goodall. By 50+ years continuous effort, we can easily enjoy observing a large number of species-typical chimpanzee behaviors without cages and barriers. Observations on maternal care, nursing, feeding and foraging, tool use at termite fishing, traveling, climbing, resting, grooming and so on are all possible.

Every visiting participant has deeply realized how essential is for young chimpanzees as social animals to grow up interacting with other group members (parents, siblings and similar age groups). At the same time, the presence of youngsters increases the variety of behavioral patterns among group members.

Moreover, we were impressed by their life having real freedom of choice as to various foods, long feeding and foraging, and to large moving range. We strongly feel we need to apply all ideas which we have gained from this program and use them wisely in our enrichment plans.

Further reading


  • If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. enrichment at saga-jp.org