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Open Access Use of an Aquarium as a Novel Enrichment Item for Singly Housed Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta)

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Locomotor stereotypies are behaviors often seen in singly housed rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and are considered to represent a maladaptive response to captive environments. Active and passive enrichment items are commonly used to mitigate these and other abnormal behaviors. Active enrichment items allow physical manipulation and may be temporarily successful in reducing stereotypies, but their beneficial effects usually are confined to relatively short periods of active use. Passive enrichment items that do not involve physical manipulation are less well studied, and the results are mixed. This study evaluated an aquarium with live fish for use as a novel passive enrichment item in a common facility setting as a means to decrease locomotor stereotypy. We hypothesized that the introduction of the aquarium would decrease the frequency of locomotor stereotypy in a group of singly housed rhesus macaques (n = 11) with a known history of abnormal behaviors. Unexpectedly, locomotor stereotypy increased with the introduction of the aquarium and then decreased over time. Furthermore, when the aquarium was removed, the frequency of stereotypy decreased to below baseline levels. These unexpected results are best explained by neophobia, a common phenomenon documented in many animal species. The increase in abnormal behavior is likely to result from the addition of a novel object within the environment. This study demonstrates that, in the context of reducing abnormal behavior, presumably innocuous enrichment items may have unexpected effects and should be evaluated critically after their introduction to a captive population.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. [email protected] 2: Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA 3: Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Campus, Edinburgh, UK

Publication date: 01 September 2014

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  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

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