Training laboratory-housed non-human primates, part 1: a UK survey
Training using positive reinforcement is increasingly recognised as a valuable tool for the humane and effective management and use of laboratory-housed non-human primates. We utilised a mixed-mode questionnaire to survey use of training and other learning processes (socialisation, habituation and desensitisation) in over half of UK establishments using and breeding primates. The survey demonstrated that there is widespread awareness of training as a refinement technique and appreciation of its diverse benefits, but training is not used as widely or as fully as it might be. This is due to real constraints (principally staff and time and a lack of confidence in ability to train), and perceived constraints (such as a supposed lack of published information on how to train and assessment of the benefits, and an overestimation of the time investment needed). There is also considerable variation between establishments in the purposes of training and techniques used, with a reliance on negative reinforcement in some. We conclude that there is opportunity for refinement of common scientific, veterinary and husbandry procedures (such as blood and urine collection, injection, capture from the group and weighing) through use of positive reinforcement training, especially when combined with appropriate socialisation, habituation and desensitisation. We end this paper with recommendations on best practice, training techniques and staff education.
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