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Keywords:

  • well-being;
  • social behavior;
  • abnormal behavior;
  • reproduction;
  • females;
  • Macaca mulatta

Abstract

We assessed the effects of social living (pairing) on improving the psychological well-being of adult female rhesus macaques (Mucuca mulutta) housed under laboratory conditions. We measured well-being in 12 pairs and 12 singly housed females through multiple indices of health (hematology, clinical morbidity, and body weight), stress (immune responses), behavior (preferences for social proximity, exhibition of species typical affliative behavior, and rates of abnormal behavior), and reproduction (frequency of ovulation, rates of conception, and infant survival). We selected adult females that had been living in single-unit cages and paired them in larger cages. Care was taken to allow females to become familiar with one another before pairing took place, and pairs that fought were separated before serious injuries occurred. Singly-housed control females were also paired for 1 week and then separated to balance the stressful effects expected to occur during the initial pairing and to assure that they were equivalent to the experimental animals in their ability to live socially. We concluded that pairing adult female rhesus monkeys was a positive experience for both the dominant and subordinate members of the pairs. They chose to spend the majority of their time involved in amicable social interactions, were more active, and they indulged in less nail biting than singly-housed controls. There were no differences in reproduction, rates of clinical morbidity, or immune stress responses among the groups. However, pairing alone may not be sufficient to assure the well-being of laboratory-housed rhesus macaques, because rates of abnormal behaviors such as stereotyped movements remained high. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.