Primate Care Manual
The Ultimate Resource for
Quality Care and Understanding of Primates
in Private Captive Situations
well being connotes more than
an absence of pain and distress. It implies that an individuals
psychological, security, and behavioral needs are fulfilled.
WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING?
Of all the recent efforts to improve the lives of captive
primates, the subject of psychological wellbeing has taken the
forefront. This subject has become a matter of great debate as
there is no definitive answer for either primates or humans. The
argument also takes on an ethical approach, for some will argue
that if a monkey is not aware of what it is missing, or how it
is being deprived, then it remains blissfully ignorant.
Does it then suffer? Or does suffering come from awareness of
ones existence? One must consider that if the lack of psychological
wellbeing causes a monkey to adapt in negative ways to its environment,
then it indeed is suffering, whether it contemplates it or not!
Since monkeys cannot be asked if they are content or depressed,
it is left up to the caretaker to read their behavior and health
indicators in order to determine the degree of psychological wellbeing
in their animals. Just as the animals they judge are individuals
who adapt in their own unique way to captivity, the caretaker
himself is also an individual. Therefore, he or she will impart
much of their own values into their conclusion. For example, one
caregiver may feel that a monkey can be quite psychologically
healthy living with a human family in which it perceives itself
to be human rather than monkey. On the other hand, another person
may feel that a human-imprinted monkey that is socially isolated
is quite abnormal, and cannot possess true psychological wellbeing
when its natural behavior has been so distorted.
The question has no black and white answer. There
are two important points to consider: first, the effects of captivity
on primates are very complex, and many are so subtle that it would
take a great deal of behavioral study to identify all of them.
Secondly, each animal is an individual and will
adapt to its captive environment in its own unique fashion. There
are, however, common behavioral responses and repertoires that
can be seen, even across species.
Caretakers have quite a responsibility. Not only
to learn what negative, abnormal behavior is, but how it starts,
what can be done to treat it, and most importantly, to prevent
it. Perhaps it would be best to begin exploring what is abnormal
by understanding what normal is for nonhuman primates.
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