Social enhancement for caged rhesus macaques: Preface


Seeing the inside of a primate research facilityfor the first time was a shocking experience for me, not onlyas a psychologically healthy person but also as a scientist whohas been trained to rigorously control extraneous variables whichmight influence research data.

There were hundreds of animals kept in barren,tiny single-cages with nothing to do but stare at bleak wallsand wait for their term to be subjected to life-threatening procedures.The cages were all stacked on top of each other in double-tiersto accommodate maximum numbers of them in windowless rooms. Thefollowing poem—written by an animal technician at a prestigiousprimate research laboratory - puts exactly into words how I felt.

Hope Dashed

Walking, dazed
past cage and cage and cage
each contained an emotion
fear, depression and rage

each unique
one aggressive, the next is meek
a thousand lives locked away
with futures bleak

in stainless steel
a world surreal
no friend to touch
or sun to feel

entire lives kept complete
in 4.3 square feet
from birth through life
till last heartbeat.

Is it really far fetched to compare this situationwith that of human prisoners kept in concentration camps?

It so happened that I soon got the opportunityto work in such a laboratory as clinical veterinarian and ethologistto improve the housing and handling conditions for the animals.

My priorities were a) allowing the animalsto actively express their need for social contact and social interactionwith at least one compatible conspecific, b) training the animalsto cooperate rather than resist during procedures, c) encouraginganimal care staff to see the individual animal as a sensitivebeing rather than as a serial-numbered research tool, d) makingthe vertical dimension of the cage accessible to the animals,and e) allowing the animals to spend some time of the day foraging.

I am grateful that the laboratory allowed meto partially break the inertia of tradition and introduce housingand handling techniques, which not only contradicted but alsodisproved conventional wisdom.

This collection of photos speaks of my concernsin regard to the traditional way of housing and handling of macaquesand of my successes in developing refinement alternatives. Itis my wish to inspire animal care personnel, scientists, veterinarians,and colony managers to allow themselves to feel compassion forthe animals in their charge and to have the courage to translatethese feelings into action, for the well-being of the animalsand for their own happiness.

Viktor Reinhardt
Mt. Shasta, September 7, 2000

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