Bloomsmith, M., Kim, N., Franklin, A. et al. 2015. Positive reinforcement methods to train chimpanzees to cooperate with urine collection. JAALAS 54, 66-69.
Positive reinforcement training can be used in many ways to enhance the welfare of captive primates. Training for biologic sample collection is one application of positive reinforcement training. In this study, 35 adult female chimpanzees were trained to cooperate with the collection of urine samples needed to facilitate a research study. A median of 35 training sessions was required for the subjects to reach reliable performance (4 of 5 sequential attempts successful) of the urine collection behavior. Adult age had no effect on the speed of learning as indicated by a rank order correlation. Individual differences in the rate of learning were pronounced but did not vary with the age of the chimpanzees. Approximately 2 y after the initial training, and with continual sample collection taking place twice weekly, we assessed the reliability of their performance and found that the chimpanzees cooperated 100% of the time and that collection of a urine sample required about 5 min. Positive reinforcement training can markedly reduce staff time, particularly for studies such as this that require frequent biologic sample collection over long durations. Similar approaches could be used to train other laboratory primates to cooperate with urine collection procedures. Animal training programs that emphasize positive reinforcement training are an important refinement in the care of laboratory primates.