Positive reinforcement training as enrichment for singly housed rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)
Positive reinforcement training is one component of behavioural management employed to improve psychological well-being. There has been regulatory promotion to compensate for restricted social housing in part by providing human interaction to singly caged primates, implying an efficacy standard for evaluating human interaction. The effect of positive reinforcement training on the behaviour of 61 singly housed laboratory rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) was evaluated at two large primate facilities. Training involved body part presentation and basic control behaviours. Baseline data were compared to two treatment phases presented in varying order across individuals, six minutes per week of positive reinforcement training and six minutes per week of unstructured human interaction. While a MANOVA involving behavioural categories and study conditions across study subjects was significant, univariate ANOVAs found no effect of phase within any behavioural category. Categorising subjects according to rearing, housing facility, or baseline levels of abnormal behaviour did not reveal changes in behaviour with positive reinforcement training or human interaction. This study failed to detect, to any degree, the types of behavioural changes documented in the scientific literature to result from pairing singly housed monkeys. Implementing short durations of positive reinforcement training across large numbers of singly housed animals may not be the most effective manner for incorporating positive reinforcement training in the behavioural management of laboratory macaques. Rather, directing efforts toward individuals with specific behavioural, management, clinical, research or therapeutic needs may represent a more fruitful approach to improving psychological well-being with this technique.
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