Food, behavioral enrichment, and primates: some guidelines


Toddes B, Power ML, Lintzenich B. 1997. Food, behavioral enrichment, and primates: some guidelines. In Proceedings of the Second Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Fort Worth, TX.


Primates are prominent animals in captive collections. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandates that dealers, exhibitors, and research facilities develop, document and follow an appropriate plan for environment enhancement adequate to promote the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates (APHIS, USDA 1992). Zoos have long recognized the importance of enrichment for captive primates. Most zoos use food as a behavioral enrichment tool. Since, as a general rule, most wild primates spend much of the day foraging for food, the use of food as behavioral enrichment for captive primates can be effective if it is done carefully, monitored and revised based on experience.
The Nutrition Advisory Group (NAG) has a responsibility to provide reasonable guidelines for food used for enrichment for captive animals held by AZA accredited institutions. The NAG subcommittee on Food Used for Behavioral Enrichment has prepared guidelines specific to primates. The guidelines provide: 1) the reasons enrichment foods must be incorporated into the daily ration as part of the diet, 2) guidelines for the inclusion of behavioral enrichment foods in primate diets, 3) criteria for evaluating appropriate behavioral enrichment foods, 4) comments on the use of treats and 5) comments on the use of browse. The guidelines are designed to be a quick and easy reference for zoo professionals on how food can be used for enrichment without compromising the nutritional integrity of the diet. The guidelines do not recommend specific foods or feeding regimes.

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