de la Barrera Cardozo, M., Chiba de Castro, W. A., Aguiar, L. M. 2021. Stress behaviors in captive robust capuchins: Effects of humidity, visitors, management and sex. American Journal of Primatology 83(7), e23265.
Wild robust capuchins (Sapajus spp.) are omnivorous neotropical primates that live in relatively large groups in extensive home and daily ranges with activity budgets dominated by traveling, foraging, and object manipulation, meaning that enclosed spaces can result in significant deprivation. Space restriction, manipulation by caretakers, and the chronic presence of visitors, can disrupt the animals' welfare, altering their normal activities and inducing stress behaviors. We aimed to study the behavioral repertoire, activity budget, and frequency of stress behaviors (stereotypes and self-directed behaviors) between two captive groups of robust capuchins in a public zoo in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, to understand how much their behavioral homeostasis has been affected. More specifically, we assessed the effect of environmental variables (temperature, relative air humidity, number of visitors, and food management) and sex on the frequency of stress behaviors. Capuchins showed a high frequency of stress behaviors, which represented around 10% of their activity budget (though the frequencies were unevenly distributed among the individuals), and traveling was positively correlated with stereotypes. We found that high relative air humidity appears to induce more stereotypes, high numbers of visitors appear to increase self-directed and vigilance behaviors and reduce stereotypes, food management can increase both kinds of stress behaviors, and females demonstrated more frequent stress behaviors than males, but individual variation may play a role. Capuchins in the group with a greater space restriction showed more stereotypes, while those in the group with more individuals showed more self-directed behaviors. Our study shows that the stress behaviors performed by the capuchins are complex and it is difficult to determine a single cause, because many traits could be involved. Despite that, this study enlightens us to direct some approaches to help these animals to meet their ecological and social needs, mitigating their stress.