Though the monkeys at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center participate in different research projects, all receive daily care from veterinarians and behaviorists focused on enrichment and oversight of the animals’ clinical and behavioral welfare.
The veterinary staff directs the daily care, feeding, and husbandry of center animals, and engaging in health testing, vaccinations, and treatment of any injuries. Veterinarians are also responsible for procedures, housing, and the clinical nursery in which infant monkeys may be raised.
The primate center’s behavioral services team directs efforts to promote psychological well-being for the colony. Animals are provided with environmental enrichment and cognitive engagement via toys and puzzles, as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and other varied foods in foraging puzzles. The behavioral services team also supports socialization in the monkey colony, facilitating and maintaining compatible social pairs and groups of monkeys. Cognitive engagement, exercise opportunities, and socialization are promoted by continuing refinement of housing. The behavioral services team also advises the clinical nursery veterinary and care staff, providing specialty expertise for the cognitive, motor, and social needs of infant monkeys as they develop.
The clinical nursery provides care and developmental needs of infant primates that are ill or are rejected by their mothers, as can also happen in the wild. The first priority for these animals is to make sure they are healthy. In the first month of life, it is critical to monitor temperature regulation, feeding and normal bodily functions. Healthy infant monkeys are reintroduced to their mothers or foster mothers, if possible. Infants that must remain in the nursery are paired with a similarly aged peer.
As the infants mature, their motor, perceptual and social development are supported through the results of decades of scientific research and best practices. Development is promoted with play cage sessions in which monkeys interact in a play environment that contains colorful toy and climbing structures. The monkeys’ nutritional and medical needs, as well as human contact, are provided by daily care and interaction by dedicated nursery staff who feed, monitor, clean, and care for the infants.
An incubator for newborn monkeys helps to maintain the animal’s body temperature in the clinical nursery. The incubator parallels the environment provided by the mother, with a bottle to provide milk, a water bottle, and a fuzzy movable “surrogate” that provides comfort and postural support
Infant monkeys play together with balls and toys in play pens outfitted with swings and other structures to provide for social well-being, cognitive engagement, and exploration opportunities.
Rhesus mothers and infants nursing and spending time together in their home environment.
Enclosures come in many shapes, sizes and configurations to accommodate the size of the monkeys and other housing needs of the animals at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. The picture at left depicts one type of housing — empty in a storage area when the photo was taken, and thus without toys, puzzles, or other enrichment devices that are always provided to monkeys. New enclosures, like the one in the photo at right, continue to be developed to allow larger and more complex living spaces and enable monkeys to be housed in social groups. These enclosures improve the welfare of the animals and also allow access to the animals for study.
Procedure rooms provide clean safe environments free of clutter, much like one would see in a doctor’s office or veterinary clinic. Behavioral assessments and other research activities take place in procedure rooms like the one picture at left. Some studies require veterinarians and researchers to examine monkeys’ brains and other organs after death. Following humane euthanasia similar to that in clinical veterinary practice, samples are collected for those studies in the necropsy room pictured at right.