How does the zoo environment affect the behaviour of captive primates?
It is important for us to be able to understand the behaviour of primates in zoos for at least three reasons: firstly as a means towards ensuring their welfare, secondly to use that understanding to ensure a positive zoo experience for zoo visitors, and thirdly so that results of basic research undertaken on zoo primates can be properly evaluated. Often, however, the results of studies of how the zoo environment affects primate behaviour are not easy to interpret. We should recognize that the zoo environment is only one of a number of environments in which primates live, and should identify in which ways the zoo environment is different from those other environments. Here, it is suggested that the zoo environment may be defined in terms of three dimensions: regular presence of large numbers of unfamiliar humans, restricted space, and being managed. Individually all three of these can also be found in other, non-zoo environments, but all three together are characteristic of zoo environments. This paper is an initial attempt to compare studies of primate responses to the variables associated with each of these three dimensions across different primate environments. It is concluded that there is a need for at least two different types of study in future: comparisons across a range of primate environments using the same species and measures, and studies of the interactions between the three dimensions identified for zoo environments. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.