Owen, Y., Amory, J. R. 2011. A case study employing operant conditioning to reduce stress of capture for red-bellied tamarins (Saguinus labiatus). Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 14(2), 124-137.
Traditional techniques used to capture New World monkeys, such as net capture, can induce high levels of acute stress detrimental to welfare. Alternatively, training nonhuman animals via operant conditioning to voluntarily participate in husbandry and/or veterinary practices is accepted as a humane process that can reduce stress and improve welfare. This study details the use of operant conditioning using positive reinforcement training (PRT) and target training to train a family of 5 captive red-bellied tamarins (Saguinus labiatus) in a wildlife park to voluntarily enter a transportation box and remain calm for 1 min after 54 training sessions. Observations of 2 unrelated net-capture processes provided measures of locomotion and vocalizations as indicators of stress behavior that were compared with those of the trained tamarins. Net-captured monkeys exhibited rapid erratic locomotion and emitted long, high-frequency vocalizations during capture whereas the trained tamarins exhibited minimal locomotion and emitted only 4 brief vocalizations (root mean square 35 dB) during capture. This indicates that the use of PRT considerably reduced potential for stress and improved welfare during the capture and containment of the tamarins.