Effects of woodchips and buried food on behavior patterns and psychological well-being of captive rhesus monkeys

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Abstract

The effects of adding woodchip litter to bare-floored pens, burying monkey chow in the woodchips, and scattering sunflower seeds in woodchips was studied in 2 stable social groups of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) to ascertain the effects of these manipulations on levels of foraging, exploration, abnormal behavior, social interactions, and urinary cortisol levels. The addition of woodchips increased exploration and feeding levels and decreased social interactions. Burial of regular monkey chow in woodchips had little effect on behavior beyond that of the woodchips alone, increasing exploration and decreasing passivity. The addition of sunflower seeds to the woodchips encouraged increased feeding and exploration and led to decreases in passivity and social interaction. There was little discernible effect of woodchip enrichment on urinary cortisol values. In contrast to some previous studies, there was no effect of wood chips or sunflower seeds on the occurrence of agonistic interactions, play, or abnormal behavior patterns.

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