The Benefits of Adding a Little Color to a Monkey’s Environment

D.Olivo, AAS, CVT, RLATG, Merck Research Laboratories, Summit, NJ

Imagine if your everyday world was boring, blah and completely sterile looking with limited amounts of color. Unimaginable, right? Here at Legacy Schering Plough/Merck, we thought the same about our nonhuman primates who look at the same bland walls each day. We wanted to “jazz it up a bit” for them, allowing them to enjoy an infusion of color in their day, especially knowing NHPs see and appreciate color, unlike many other lab animals. Although there are numerous other forms of enrichment (TV’s, radios, toys, etc.) provided daily for the monkeys, there is something to be said for the “happy feeling” you get when you look around and see a multitude of color bursts surrounding you. Positive stimulation which comes from mural paintings and colored landscapes benefit the nonhuman primates, as well as those individuals who work in the rooms.

The inception of the “Paint Project” began as an agenda item through the Legacy Schering Plough Enrichment Committee. It then became a proposal which was presented to Senior Management, who approved the idea. The Enrichment Committee then made it into a reality. It was the beginning of something positive, good and fun for everyone!!!

This project has allowed us to share the results with many other individuals in the Pharmaceutical Industry interested in pursuing a similar project at their facilities. One of the many benefits of mural painting is that it allows the murals to become a permanent enhancement to the environment. While other forms of enrichment can be quite time-consuming and require advance scheduling and forethought, the paintings were of minimal expense, are self-sustained and effortless to maintain.

The finalized room paintings consisted of themes which were carefully selected to avoid any adverse affects on the animals being exposed to them. The wall surfaces were prepared and painted with paint that was non-toxic and compatible with chemicals used for cleaning. The characters and objects selected to be placed on the walls were projected with an overhead viewer and traced. The room themes were: The Nursery Rhymes, The Rain Forest, The Farm Land, Under the Sea, Geometric Shapes, The 50’s, Historic Route 66, The Garden, The North Pole and, finally, The USA Patriotic Room.

We were so pleased with the results of the project that a decision was made to present a poster of the work at the NJABR and AALAS Tri-Branch in 2011. Much to our surprise—we won first place in the NJABR poster presentation. Now there was only one decision to be made, “What to do with the prize winnings”? After a bit of discussion, we made a decision to share the winnings with all of those who dedicated time, interest and efforts to the project. A breakfast was hosted in their honor and, just like the paint project and the poster, the breakfast was a big success too!!!

When given the opportunity, we all have a tendency to be drawn to items and things which possess color and character. With the support of management and the dedication of personnel, the monkeys can enjoy the simple pleasures in life by adding a more colorful environment to their world.

Volume 10, January 2012

1 Comment

Filed under Issue 10, January 2012

One Response to The Benefits of Adding a Little Color to a Monkey’s Environment

  1. Allyson

    Interesting article. Wondering if you collected any data that show benefit to the animals? No doubt that the decoration is a positive with respect to the work atmosphere, but would love to see some objective measures of effect on the monkeys.

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