Novak, M. A., Suomi, S. J. 1989. Psychological well-being of primates in captivity. ILAR Journal 31(3), 5-15.
Recent amendments to the Animal Welfare Act will, upon taking effect, require that researchers who maintain nonhuman primates in captivity house their animals in such a way as to “promote their psychological well-being.” Unfortunately, no consensus presently exists in terms of how to define or identify psychological well-being in primate subjects. We propose a strategy for defining psychological well-being that includes assessment of physical health, comparison with species-normative behavioral repertoires, detection of distress, and evaluation of coping responses. This set of definitions is then used to characterize prototypical primate laboratory environments (e.g., single-cage, pair, and group housing) in terms of fostering psychological well-being. The importance of factors other than housing, such as species-specific characteristics, rearing histories, and phenotypic differences, is also emphasized in developing prescriptions for psychological well-being in captive primates. It seems unlikely that simple prescriptions will be broadly applicable across the whole range of captive primates. Instead, researchers must be sensitive to the needs of their particular subjects in order to optimize their psychological well-being, however defined.