Managing primates in zoos: Lessons from animal behaviour

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Current Science, Volume 89, Number 7, p.1214–1219 (2005)



Abnormal behaviour, primate husbandry, stress, zoos


The use of animal behaviour in primate husbandry and management is discussed here through two studies conducted on non-human primates in Indian zoos. Abnormal behaviours such as begging from humans, floating limb, self-biting and stereotypic pacing were observed only in omnivorous primates in these two studies. The factors influencing the exhibition of abnormal behaviours were identified to be group composition and size, enclosure design and rearing history. Methods to reduce and increase proportions of behaviour pathologies and natural behaviours, respectively, have been suggested. The behaviour of captive nonhuman primates differs vastly from their free-ranging counter-parts. This difference is primarily because captive environments lack appropriate environmental and social stimuli, which often leads to the development of bizarre behavioural patterns unique to captive animals, technically referred to as ???abnormal behaviours???. In this paper, presence of abnormal behaviours in the behavioural repertoire of a captive primate is used to demonstrate the need for animal behaviour studies to be included in the management strategies towards improved primate husbandry in Indian zoos.


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