Devine, L. 2013. Desensitization in the African Green model. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science [AALAS] Meeting Official Program, 642 (Abstract #P52).
A cooperative environment is paramount when working with nonhuman primates (NHP). Desensitization to specific stimulus helps to allow technicians to more safely perform procedures without the use of anesthetics, and with minimal restraint, greatly reducing stress in the NHP. Creating a cooperative and safe environment can be challenging if you are not properly trained to recognize and reinforce wanted behavior, and is compounded by the limited amount of data regarding behavioral training in the African Green monkey. Study protocol dictated the placement of a vascular access port (VAP) to allow for frequent blood collection at various time-points throughout the study, with the intention of training 9 NHPs to voluntarily present their VAP through the front of their home cage with minimal intervention on the technicians’ behalf. These NHPs were especially challenging to train because the perches in their home cage are on the left hand side of the cage and their catheters were placed on their left hand side of their abdomen. Normal posture while resting on their perch exposes the right side of their abdomen to the front of the cage. In order for us to get them to present the VAP, we would have to train the NHPs to show little to no resistance to the squeeze bar by using different techniques and through positive reinforcement for desired behavior. We then would train the NHPs to come off their perch, station in the front of the cage, then turn to face their perch. Although presentation challenges existed, we were able to overcome them through physical cut out modifications to the left hand side of the cages and by using a variety of reinforcers we were able to manipulate the majority of NHPs to present using a targeting style method in a minimally stressful and safe environment. 4 out of 9 NHPs were fully presenting their VAP for catheter usage after a training time of 3 months. Those NHPs that would not fully present at the time of study showed remarkable progress cooperating with staff for procedural work.