Daoudi, S., Badihi, G., Buchanan-Smith, H. 2017. Is mixed-species living cognitively enriching? Enclosure use and welfare in two captive groups of tufted capuchins (Sapajus apella) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus). Animal Behavior and Cognition 4(1).

Non-human primates have complex relationships with conspecifics and also other animals with whom they share their habitat in the wild. Some primates, such as capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus), naturally associate, with the potential to act as both proximate and ultimate influences on each other’s behavior. There are a number of benefits to exhibiting such species in mixed communities in captivity, for instance the increased social complexity may provide environmental and social enrichment and appropriate cognitive challenges, ultimately enhancing their welfare in restricted captive enclosures. Monitoring how these species interact and utilize their available space is important for effective care and management. But despite this connection, there remains relatively little conclusive data on whether mixed groups of captive primates are cognitively enriching. This study examined patterns of space use in two mixed-species groups of Sapajus and Saimiri housed at the Living Links to Human Evolution Research Centre, RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. We predicted that if Sapajus and Saimiri were attracted to the presence of the other species then they would share the same space when in mixed enclosures. The data did not support this prediction. Sapajus showed a preference for central zones, while Saimiri spent more time in their exclusive indoor enclosure and appeared to prefer peripheral zones of their outdoor enclosures and close to doorways leading indoors. We conclude that while housing these species in a mixed exhibit may not be cognitively enriching it does provide appropriate cognitive challenges that can still enhance the welfare of individuals.