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Cheri Stevens Statement: California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC)

Primate Behavior at CNPRC

No two primates are alike. Each handles the stress of their unnatural living conditions in their own way. My experience with CNPRC deals directly and primarily with animals housed in the indoor colony and that is specifically what my examples refer to.

Animals are housed in single animal cages and for approximately thirty-five hours a week total. Many primates are paired on a daily basis (with the exception of weekends and holidays) with a neighboring primate. Reasons for not pairing neighbors are usually due to aggressively territorial reactions to being housed in such close quarters. Many primates just cannot handle sharing the space provided to them with another animal. Those who were unable to be paired would often socialize with other primates in the room that they were able to make eye contact with. Some animals would even go to the lengths of using the mirrors provided to them that were attached to cages to socialize with other primates. Those that were fortunate enough to be a part of a pair craved this daily opportunity to bond and socialize with another.

It was easier to pair the primates in the morning than it was to separate them in the afternoon for the remainder of the day until the next morning. I cannot say whether or not the enrichment program set by CNPRC works to relieve stress on the animals or not because what was provided to them never seemed to be enough. Some of the more common responses to the stress and need for activity include, but are not limited to things such as spinning, rocking, pacing, bouncing, and self mutilation. Reactions to living in a stressful environment would also manifest in gastrointestinal complications such as development of a poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or bloating.

Mutilations that were self-inflicted were usually from obsessively grooming, to the extent of creating bald spots. A more bizarre reaction to stress that I witnessed would be vicious self attacks, where for example an animal would grab its own body parts, (usually arm or leg) and manage to make it appear that they were vicious, even to themselves by biting themselves. This reaction seemed to come out of defense and its purpose seemed to be a warning to those with a threatening presence. This defense mechanism was also demonstrated with the Kong chew toys offered to the animals for enrichment.

Another behavior that was brought on by the indoor living conditions was what I call cage-to-cage finger wars. It was not uncommon for animals in neighboring cages to fight amongst each other between cages. This often resulted in one of the primates chewing off the other primate's fingers. I reported this behavior a number of times and very rarely, maybe once these animals were rearranged to eliminate the stress and aggressive activity in the animal rooms.

Another unnatural condition created by research policies is the “harvest” of infants from their mothers before they would naturally leave their troupe in the wild. This would cause some mothers to develop poor appetites and even vomit for a day or two after the infants were removed and placed in juvenile corrals or in cages more convenient to the projects they may have been assigned to.

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