Kezar, S. M., Baker, K. C., Russell-Lodrigue, K. E. et al. 2022. Single-dose diazepam administration improves pairing success of unfamiliar adult male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). JAALAS 61(2), 173-180.
Social housing is one of the best forms of environmental enhancement for nonhuman primates, and current research into pair compatibility and introduction techniques focuses on improving safety and outcome. The gradual steps method (GS), which is widely used for introducing indoor-housed macaques, involves an initial phase of limited physical contact to allow animals to acclimate to one another prior to full contact. A safer, more efficacious introduction method is needed. The administration of diazepam, a sedating anxiolytic medication, is known to increase affiliative behavior in familiar, socially housed rhesus macaques. We hypothesized that administration of a single dose of diazepam prior to full contact introduction without a protected contact phase would improve the success rate of isosexual introductions of unfamiliar macaques as compared with the success rate of GS. We administered 3.2 mg/kg oral diazepam to 34 adult male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) 30-45 min prior to introduction into full contact. Pairs were deemed successful after 14 consecutive days of compatible full-contact housing. Behavioral data collected during these introductions was compared with data collected on 58 adult males during social introductions using GS. Sixteen of 17 introductions (94%) employing diazepam were successful. This success rate was significantly higher than the 45% success rate of introductions using GS. We also found that a longer duration of single housing and increased age were predictive of pair failure in animals introduced using GS. Our results suggest that diazepam administration prior to full contact introductions increases the success rate of male social introductions.