Nekaris, K. A.-I., Campera, M., Chimienti, M. et al. 2022. Training in the dark: Using target training for non-invasive application and validation of accelerometer devices for an endangered primate (Nycticebus bengalensis). Animals 12(4), 411.
Accelerometers offer unique opportunities to study the behaviour of cryptic animals but require validation to show their accuracy in identifying behaviours. This validation is often undertaken in captivity before use in the wild. While zoos provide important opportunities for trial field techniques, they must consider the welfare and health of the individuals in their care and researchers must opt for the least invasive techniques. We used positive reinforcement training to attach and detach a collar with an accelerometer to an individual Bengal slow loris (Nycticebus bengalensis) at the Shaldon Wildlife Trust, U.K. This allowed us to collect accelerometer data at different periods between January–June 2020 and January–February 2021, totalling 42 h of data with corresponding video for validation. Of these data, we selected 54 min where ten behaviours were present and ran a random forest model. We needed 39 15-min sessions to train the animal to wear/remove the collar. The accelerometer data had an accuracy of 80.7 ± SD 9.9% in predicting the behaviours, with 99.8% accuracy in predicting resting, and a lower accuracy (but still >75% for all of them apart from suspensory walk) for the different types of locomotion and feeding behaviours. This training and validation technique can be used in similar species and shows the importance of working with zoos for in situ conservation (e.g., validation of field techniques).