Use the links above to access information on the housing, husbandry and care of non-human primates.
Also see our pages on our Non-human primate welfare programme.
Basic requirements for good primate housing include the following:
- Housing in stable, compatible groups (pairs at least)
- Enough space for exercise, a range of normal behaviours and suitable enrichment
- Solid floors with substrate
- Sufficient enclosure height to allow vertical flight if alarmed; no double tiers
- Climbing structures to increase useable space (perches, platforms, swings, ropes, ladders); sufficient for all animals to occupy simultaneously
- A varied diet appropriate for the species
- The ability to forage, including appropriate artificial feeding devices and scatter feeding
- Adequate light levels
- Access to outdoors wherever possible
- Nest boxes for species that use them, e.g. marmosets
- Wood for gnawing and scent-marking for species that use it, e.g. marmosets
- Visual barriers for control over social interactions
- Toys, chews, tactile materials, destructible materials to provide a degree of control over the environment
- Novelty - minor changes in furniture, feeding practices, toys
- Adequate socialization and habituation to humans, and training where appropriate
Videos of some enrichment strategies
Anecdotal and empirical observations suggest that provision of a small mobile swimming pool for short periods of time is effective enrichment for macaques in the laboratory. These animals show high motivation to manipulate the water surface, immerse themselves, dive, swim and play (including underwater), even in the absence of submerged food rewards (e.g. raisins, nuts, banana chips). Advantages of this enrichment technique are that it is based on a natural behavioural inclination, encourages play rather than food-orientated enrichment, provides exercise, keeps both animals and their enclosure clean, and can facilitate thermoregulation in hot weather.
The first video shows long-tailed (cynomolgus) macaques using a custom-made polypropylene pool built to fit within their enclosure. Stock and experimental macaques at this laboratory are group-housed and given access to the pools about once per week to maintain some novelty. The macaques can be seen swimming, dive-bombing and wrestling. The second video shows long-tailed macaques diving into a swimming pool at BFC Israel Ltd.
Mirrors have been provided as environmental enrichment for primates. Responses range from playing with the mirrors in an apparently welfare-beneficial manner, to reactions similar to those seen during confrontations with other primates. Rhesus macaques at the Centre for Macaques breeding centre use adjustable mirrors to observe activity in other areas, such as an adjacent corridor. The mirrors provide visual stimulation and an element of control, expand the animals' environment, and allow observation of staff activities.
The video below shows outdoor runs for stock and breeding marmosets located on the roof of a laboratory. The outdoor runs are constructed of wood and mesh, and enriched with Astroturf, non-toxic shrubs and browse, and flexible perches. Marmosets can be seen investigating blossom on the shrubs, scent-marking and leaping.
The video below shows weaned long-tailed macaques at BFC Israel Ltd. in a two-tier enclosure designed to provide extensive visual barriers and thereby minimise aggression within the social group. The enclosure contains wooden fixed perches and a variety of moveable swings.
- AWIC (2006), Environmental Enrichment for Nonhuman Primates Resource Guide
- Reinhardt V, Reinhardt A (2002), Environmental enrichment for primates – annotated database.
- Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (2005), Enrichment for nonhuman primates, National Institutes of Health
- Comfortable quarters for nonhuman primates in research institutions .
- What factors should determine cage sizes for primates in the laboratory?.
- Refinement of the use of non-human primates in scientific research, Part I: The influence of humans.
- Refinement of the use of non-human primates in scientific research, Part II: Housing, husbandry and acquisition.
- Refinement of the use of non-human primates in scientific research, Part III: Refinement of procedures.
- NC3Rs Guidelines: Primate accommodation, care and use.
- Refinements in husbandry, care and common procedures for non-human primates.
- Creating housing to meet the behavioral needs of long-tailed macaques.
- Primate sensory capabilities and communication signals: implications for care and use in the laboratory.
View PDF (746KB)
- Safe pair housing of macaques.
- LAREF - Laboratory Animal Refinement and Enrichment Forum -- For exchange of experiences about ways to improve the conditions under which laboratory animals are housed and handled.