By Mollie Bloomsmith, PhD
Yerkes National Primate Research Center
In May, 2016, a Workshop on Macaque Pair Housing (WoMPH) was hosted by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. The 28 workshop participants spent 3.5 days along with the workshop instructors, Mollie Bloomsmith and Melissa Truelove (both of Yerkes), Kate Baker (Tulane National Primate Research Center) and Kris Coleman (Oregon National Primate Research Center), focusing on a variety of issues related to housing macaques in a pair situation. Jason Cowan-Brown served as the workshop coordinator and others spoke at the workshop including Jaine Perlman, Andrea Franklin, Mark Sharpless, Jenny Wood, Emily Brown (all from Yerkes), and Jim Weed (Centers for Disease Control) and Pete Otovic (Augusta University). Workshop participants came from across the country and included behavioral specialists, research staff members, animal care staff members, veterinary technicians and veterinarians.
Main topics that were covered included why it is important to pair house monkeys, selecting macaque partners who are the most likely to get along, the introduction process, and assessing their compatibility once monkeys are introduced. We also discussed things that can be done to help increase the chance that monkey pairs can continue to live together compatibly, and how to approach particular situations that might be the most challenging. Participants learned to measure the temperament of monkeys and how this can be used as a tool to select partners. The use of data to track pairs of monkeys and to track progress in social housing programs was demonstrated. The importance of communicating with veterinarians, animal care staff and research staff was a common theme, as was means to accommodate research needs while monkeys are pair housed.
The workshop included lectures, small group exercises, individual exercises, demonstrations, animal observation and behavioral data collection. Participants observed rhesus monkeys living in large outdoor groups, as well as pair-housed monkeys. They learned behavioral data collection techniques and methods for monitoring pairs of monkeys once they have been introduced to one another. They completed temperament testing of monkeys, learned the basics of positive reinforcement training and some training techniques that can be useful in helping pairs to live together, and discussed how enrichment can be helpful in the pair-housing process.
A good time was had by all and we hope that many monkeys will benefit from the knowledge and skills gained by those attending the workshop. We hope to offer this workshop again, perhaps in the spring of 2017. You can check the Yerkes website (http://www.yerkes.emory.edu/education/2016%20Behavioral%20Management%20Workshop.html) for a posting about future workshops.