• primate;
  • behavioral management;
  • social;
  • introduction;
  • cage design


In a biomedical research environment, research or management procedures may render continuous full contact pairing of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) unfeasible. This study aimed to determine whether separation on a frequent basis or housing in adjacent cages with tactile contact interferes with the behavioral benefits of continuous full contact. Behavioral data (1260 hours) were collected from 32 adult females and 16 adult males housed at two National Primate Research Centers. Subjects were studied in four housing conditions: single housing, full contact pair housing, intermittent contact pair housing, and protected contact housing. After introduction, each pair was housed in each of the three social housing conditions in varying order. Among females, but not males, introducing animals into full and intermittent contact reduced levels of abnormal behavior. There was a trend toward this reduction in protected contact. In both females and males, full and intermittent contact was associated with lower levels of anxiety-related behavior, but protected contact was not. Females spent more time inactive in protected contact than either full or intermittent contact, and males showed a trend toward less inactivity following introduction into full contact. Both sexes showed less affiliation in protected contact compared to the other forms of social housing. Agonistic behavior among females was not affected by housing condition; among males, levels were equivalent in full and intermittent contact but were higher in intermittent than protected contact. Frequent separation of pairs does not appear to detract from the behavioral benefits of pair housing. Separation by a barrier permitting tactile contact is inferior to other forms of social housing but showed modest improvements over single housing nonetheless. This study can guide the provision of social contact to rhesus macaques under conditions restricting pairs from continuous full contact. Am. J. Primatol. 76:30–42, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.