The Plymouth Student Scientist

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Biological and Marine Sciences Article


Captivity is often physically and psychologically damaging to primates, who have complex ethological and social needs. It is widely agreed that primates do not make suitable domestic pets, however it is still legal to keep some species of primates as pets in the UK.The effects of the exotic pet trade on primate welfare are poorly documented. It is extremely likely that it will be detrimental towards their physical and mental health, especially when kept in isolation from other primates, but there is little evidence to show the long-term implications of social deprivation.This study observed the long term-effects of social isolation on black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella) rescued from the pet trade. Five individuals that were kept in social isolation whilst they were a pet(Isolation condition) were compared tofive individuals that were kept in social groups(Social condition).There was a significant difference between the frequencies of abnormal behaviours between the two housing conditions(P =0.008). Individuals in the Isolation condition performed more abnormal behaviours than the individuals in the Social condition. There was also a significant difference in the frequencies of feeding (including foraging) behaviours(P =0.032),with the Social condition showing much higher frequencies of feeding behaviours than the Isolation condition.These results emphasise the importance of appropriate social housing for primates in the pet trade, as years of social rehabilitation have evidently not abolished these abnormal behaviours that originated from being kept in social isolation as pets. Furthermore, it reiterates that primates are not suitable pets as most environments cannot suitably meet their complex ethological and social needs.

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The Plymouth Student Scientist





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May 2019

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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