Post-Conflict Behavior in Captive Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
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Post-conflict behaviors, including reconciliation, redirected aggression, and consolation, have been observed in several primate and non-primate species. These behaviors are thought to help re-establish rates of affiliation and tolerance to baseline levels, by terminating the victims stress response, and reducing the social tension created by conflict. Post-conflict behavior was examined in two groups (N = 13) of captive western lowland gorillas, a species for which no previous conflict resolution data exist. The post-conflict/matched-control method was used to observe the groups at Zoo Atlanta. Analyses of 223 conflicts (using chi-square, Wilcoxon signed ranks, and Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests) showed significantly more affiliation between former opponents after a conflict when compared to control periods, indicating reconciliation. Results also showed significantly more affiliation between the victim and a third-party after a conflict, indicating consolation. Both solicited and unsolicited consolation were observed. Instances of redirected aggression were very few, and thus not included in the analyses. The majority of the affiliative interactions were social proximity, which suggests that unlike most nonhuman primates, proximity, rather than physical contact, may be the main mechanism for resolving conflicts in western lowland gorillas. Post-conflict behavior was not uniform throughout the groups, but rather varied according to dyad type (for instance, adult-adult, juvenile-juvenile, adult-juvenile, etc.). Effects of kinship and the intensity of aggression during a conflict on post-conflict behavioral patterns were analyzed.
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