It is very rare to obtain behavioural data on chimpanzees 17 years apart. But it is even more exceptional to obtain data while the chimpanzees are living in a private home.

That is why our latest scientific paper “Behavioural development of former pet chimpanzees, a decade after their arrival at the MONA Sanctuary”, is on the cover of the International Journal “Animals”.

In our case we have been lucky enough that the former owner of Tom, Coco and Bea, in 2004, allowed a student who was doing an internship at the Barcelona Zoo, to make observations of the three chimpanzees while they were still living with him. The data remained in a drawer and now we have been able to recover and compare it with data collected during the year 2021 at the MONA Foundation.

We have aimed to check how Tom, Coco and Bea have evolved socially after 17 years and have been living with other chimpanzees for the last 9 years.

Would we be able to remember how we related to our social environment 17 years ago? Have we changed? Did we argue more? Did we get angry more easily? Were we more affectionate? Have we been able to incorporate new friendships? Have we changed our childhood friends for others with whom we relate more frequently?

It is said that as we get older we find it harder to make friends. Well, Tom, Coco and Bea have proved just the opposite. Grooming has become the predominant social behaviour in their relationships, and not only among themselves but also with Victor, Nico and Cheeta, the latter being the most fortunate to enter their social circle. Overall, the three chimpanzees over the years have improved their social competence, the set of positive skills that all social beings need to function constructively in the group in which we live.

It is also said that we keep our childhood friends forever. Is it the same for chimpanzees? Coco, Tom and Bea have proved it. Over the years, they have strengthened their bond by relaxing at MONA’s facilities. And they have shown us that their friendship lasts over time, even though their social circle has grown. They will always be close.

And you can see it in this emotional video we captured a few weeks ago. They are powerful images in which you can sense Coco’s concern for her friend.

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The results of the study suggest that the sanctuary environment, the social group and the care provided by the MONA team have contributed to improving their competence as social beings and increasing their well-being. Objective achieved!


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*Animals is an international, peer-reviewed, open access journal devoted entirely to animals, including zoology and veterinary sciences, published semimonthly online by MDPI. .