Use of an aquarium as a novel enrichment item for singly housed rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Theresa M. Meade, Eric Hutchinson, Caroline Krall, Julie Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Locomotor stereotypies are behaviors often seen in singly housed rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and are considered to represent a maladaptive response to captive environments. Active and passive enrichment items are commonly used to mitigate these and other abnormal behaviors. Active enrichment items allow physical manipulation and may be temporarily successful in reducing stereotypies, but their beneficial effects usually are confined to relatively short periods of active use. Passive enrichment items that do not involve physical manipulation are less well studied, and the results are mixed. This study evaluated an aquarium with live fish for use as a novel passive enrichment item in a common facility setting as a means to decrease locomotor stereotypy. We hypothesized that the introduction of the aquarium would decrease the frequency of locomotor stereotypy in a group of singly housed rhesus macaques (n = 11) with a known history of abnormal behaviors. Unexpectedly, locomotor stereotypy increased with the introduction of the aquarium and then decreased over time. Furthermore, when the aquarium was removed, the frequency of stereotypy decreased to below baseline levels. These unexpected results are best explained by neophobia, a common phenomenon documented in many animal species. The increase in abnormal behavior is likely to result from the addition of a novel object within the environment. This study demonstrates that, in the context of reducing abnormal behavior, presumably innocuous enrichment items may have unexpected effects and should be evaluated critically after their introduction to a captive population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)472-477
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
Volume53
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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