Survey of environmental enhancement programs for laboratory primates

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Abstract

Animal welfare regulations in the United States require that nonhuman primate environmental enhancement plans be made in accordance with currently accepted professional standards; however, little information is available for quantifying common practice. Here we report the results of a 2003 survey that was sent to individuals overseeing enrichment programs at a variety of primate research institutions. The surveys requested information on program administration and management, implementation standards, procedures, and constraints pertaining to major categories of environmental enrichment, as well as intervention plans for animals exhibiting behavioral pathologies. Data were obtained on the management of 35,863 primates in 22 facilities. Behavioral scientists performed program oversight at the majority of facilities. Most programs reported recent changes, most commonly due to external site visits, and least commonly resulting from internal review. Most facilities' institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs) included of individuals with behavioral expertise, and about two-thirds reported that enrichment issues could influence research protocol design. While most primates were reported to be housed socially (73%), social housing for indoor-housed primates appears to have changed little over the past 10 years. Research protocol issues and social incompatibility were commonly cited constraints. Implementation of feeding, manipulanda, and structural enrichment was relatively unconstrained, and contributions to these aspects of behavioral management generally included individuals in a wide variety of positions within a facility. In contrast, enrichment devices were used on a less widespread basis within facilities, and positive reinforcement programs that involved dedicated trainers were rare. We suggest that altering the role of the IACUC would be a productive avenue for increasing the implementation of social housing, and that an emphasis on prevention rather than intervention against behavioral pathology is warranted. The data from this survey may be useful for anticipating future program evaluations, establishing more effective internal evaluations, and assessing program progress and resource allocation. Am. J. Primatol. 69:1–18, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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