Living Together: Behavior and welfare in single and mixed species groups of capuchin (Cebus apella) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus)



Leonardi R, Buchanan-Smith HM, Dufour V, MacDonald C & Whiten A (2010) Living Together: Behavior and welfare in single and mixed species groups of capuchin (Cebus apella) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus). American Journal of Primatology, 72 (1), pp. 33-47.

There are potential advantages of housing primates in mixed species exhibits for both the visiting public and the primates themselves. If the primates naturally associate in the wild, it may be more educational and enjoyable for the public to view. Increases in social complexity and stimulation may be enriching for the primates. However, mixed species exhibits might also create welfare problems, such as stress from inter-specific aggression. We present data on the behavior of single and mixed species groups of capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) housed at the Living Links to Human Evolution Research Centre in the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo. These species associate in the wild, gaining foraging benefits and decreased predation. But Cebus are also predators themselves with potential risks for the smaller Saimiri. To study their living together we took scan samples at ≥15 minutes intervals on single (n=109) and mixed species groups (n=152), and all occurrences of intra-specific aggression and inter-specific interactions were recorded. We found no evidence of chronic stress and Saimiri actively chose to associate with Cebus. On 79% of scans the two species simultaneously occupied the same part of their enclosure. No vertical displacement was observed. Inter-specific interactions were common (>2.5/hr), and equally divided amongst mildly aggressive, neutral, and affiliative interactions such as play. Only one aggressive interaction involved physical contact and was non-injurious. Aggressive interactions were mostly (65%) displacements and vocal exchanges, initiated almost equally by Cebus and Saimiri. Modifications to the enclosure were successful in reducing these mildly aggressive interactions, with affiliative interactions increasing in frequency and diversity. Our data suggest that in carefully designed, large enclosures, naturally associating monkeys are able to live harmoniously and are enriched by each other.

mixed species zoo exhibit; social enrichment; welfare; Cebus; Saimiri; Zoos Planning; Mammals Behavior; Cebus olivaceus Behavior; Saimiri sciureus Behavior

American Journal of Primatology: Volume 72, Issue 1

Publication date31/01/2010
Publication date online29/09/2009

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Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith
Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith

Professor, Psychology