SNRPC has a Behavioral Services group that consists of six full-time staff members who see to the enrichment and behavioral needs of the primates at the SNPRC. This dedicated staff of behavior specialists works to ensure the wellbeing of the laboratory animals. These specialists provide expertise in their given areas, which include behavioral management and socialization, environmental enrichment, behavioral intervention, animal training, and behavioral data collection. These behavior specialists are supervised by a doctoral level scientist.
A variety of responsibilities fall to the enrichment/behavior staff. Some of these include:
Behavioral Consulting: The Behavioral Services staff is utilized not only by veterinary and management staff, but also by investigators who want greater insights into the effect their decisions have on the behavior of the primates they work with. The Behavioral Services staff meets with these people to help design observation methods and analyses or to help design projects with the behavioral well-being of the primates in mind.
Establish Criteria for Enrichment: The Behavioral Services staff is the core component to the Environmental Enhancement Committee and is responsible for working with members throughout the Primate Center to establish the Environmental Enhancement Plan. This plan outlines the goals for the enrichment program and sets guidelines for the Primate Center. The staff also surveys to make certain these goals are met.
Enrichment: All nonhuman primates at SNPRC are included in the enrichment program. Enrichment provided to the animals consists of social contact, structural enrichment (e.g., perches, swings), manipulable enrichment (e.g., chew toys, balls), food enrichment (e.g., fruit, grain), sensory enrichment (e.g., television, radio), and occupational enrichment (e.g., puzzle feeders).
Behavioral Management: The Behavioral Services staff also conducts routine observations on many of the primates housed in a variety of social settings to assess their well-being and make recommendations to the colony managers. This helps provide the primates here at the SNPRC with optimal housing and social settings.
Pairing: At the SNPRC we try to pair and socially house as many primates as possible. Behavioral Services staff members work closely with veterinary staff and investigators to identify new candidates for pairing and to pair animals whenever possible. The pairing process includes assessment, several stages of introductions, and follow-up observations.
Behavioral Intervention Program: Not all individuals react to the captive environment in the same way, and some may experience stress. Behavioral Services staff members survey the colonies and educate Primate Center staff to help identify animals who are not coping as well in this environment. One Behavioral Services staff member is a specialist in this area. He conducts behavioral assessments and, if warranted, designs an intervention particular to that individual’s needs.
Workshops: To further educate the Veterinary Resources staff, we developed a behavioral workshop series. This series consists of seven hour-long classes that are presented once a year with a class scheduled approximately every other month. The workshop series was developed to help train the care and veterinary staff to recognize different aspects of primate behavior and to facilitate their understanding of the various behavioral management and enrichment programs. Four classes cover the ecology, social structure, and behavior of baboons, chimpanzees, macaques, and marmosets. The remaining classes cover abnormal behavior, enrichment, and training. A powerpoint presentation giving an overview of all of the courses was also developed for new Veterinary Resources employees to view on their own. This was developed so that new employees can have a basic knowledge of the topics upon starting. They then attend the in-depth courses within the first year of employment. For a broader audience, an Enrichment Device Manual describing the construction and use of enrichment devices used at SNPRC was developed. This manual is available on SNPRC’s website.
Training: Our full-time primate trainer works with carestaff and technicians to train primates for routine husbandry and clinical procedures such as shifting cages, entering a transport box, presenting body parts for inspection, and presenting for injection. Training can be used not only to reduce stress on animals and make staff responsibilities easier, but it can also be used as an enrichment tool itself, as many primates enjoy this positive human interaction.