Nonhuman Primates

Group or pair housing is most desirable for most species of nonhuman primates; however, single housing in stainless steel caging has been the more traditional way to keep large nonhuman primates such as macaques. The main advantage for single caging of the larger species is safety, both for personnel and the animals. These animals are strong, have sharp teeth, and may have infections that are deadly for humans, e.g., herpes B virus in macaques. Experimental procedures often require frequent handling of the animals. Individually housed animals can be more safely restrained and captured. In addition, the single animal per cage housing regime avoids the risk of severe harm that these large animals inflict on each other when fighting. In spite of these serious considerations, pair or group housing is often possible when carefully arranged and is preferred, because these are social, highly developed animals with needs for exercise and environmental complexity. For these reasons, individual caging is best limited to situations requiring individual housing based on scientific requirements and individual animal behavior.

The most optimal housing may be to have two primates in a large cage with branches, toys, and bedding material into which food may be placed to stimulate foraging behavior. A transport cage may be attached to such cages, and the animals may be urged to go into the transport cage with some training. With two primates in one cage, it would be simple enough to get the primate wanted for a particular experiment without too much distress of nonhuman primate and personnel. It usually is possible to find two animals that like to be housed together. Larger groups of nonhuman primates may be formed even from animals that have no or little experience of group housing. Care must be taken to find a good structure of such a group, which needs a strong and reliable leader.

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