Analysis of a quantitative behavioral assessment program to identify and treat abnormal behaviors in captive primates

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Martin, Allison L.
Maple, Terry L.
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Facilities housing non-human primates are required to make provisions for their psychological wellbeing, which may include monitoring animals for signs of decreased wellbeing such as the presence of abnormal behaviors or alopecia. By analyzing archival behavioral data collected by the Behavior Management Unit at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (YNPRC), I aimed to identify behavioral predictors of self-wounding and alopecia and to evaluate the effectiveness of current treatments in reducing abnormal behavior and alopecia in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). The behaviors of self-biting and hair plucking (conditional logistic regression, p < .05) as well as floating limb and self-oral behaviors (Mantel-Haenszel chi-square tests, p < .05) were identified as behavioral predictors of self-wounding. Fear behaviors were associated with an increased risk of developing alopecia (Mantel-Haenszel chi square, p < .05). An inverse relationship was found between alopecia and stereotypic locomotor behaviors such as pacing, with animals who displayed these behaviors being less likely to develop significant hair loss (conditional logistic regression, p < .05). Overall, the type of treatment provided (e.g., additional foraging opportunities, the provision of toys, or the provision of visual barriers) did not predict improvement in levels of abnormal behavior or alopecia (logistic regression, p > .05). The results of these analyses add to the literature on self-wounding and alopecia and will allow refinement of the quantitative behavioral monitoring system at YNPRC such that more at-risk animals can be identified and treated prior to the development of abnormal or harmful behaviors.
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