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Although various aspects of gorilla nest building have been described in wild populations, nest-building behavior of captive gorillas has not been subject to much scientific review. We observed nest building in 17 gorillas during three periods: summer baseline, winter baseline, and winter treatment, in which the amount of available nesting material was doubled. We conducted observations exclusively in the indoor holding area in the hour following evening departure of animal care staff. During baseline, gorillas engaged in nest-building on 3.1% of scans and were on a constructed nest on 27.9% of scans. Overall, gorillas spent significantly more time on elevated nests than on floor nests. There were no statistically significant sex, age class, or rearing history differences in nest building, time spent on a nest, or nest location preference. Nest building consisted of both gathering and manipulating materials. The gorillas spent significantly more time building nests in winter than in summer. Additionally, they were more often on elevated nests during winter than summer. Doubling the amount of nesting material did not increase nest building, but it increased the number of floor nests. Our results suggest that providing adequate materials to captive gorillas for nest building may facilitate performance of species-typical nest-building, minimize competition among individuals for nesting sites and materials, and permit individual thermoregulation.


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