The long term effects of social deprivation on black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella) rescued from the primate pet trade

Kate Bee


Captivity is often physicallyand psychologically damaging to primates, who have complex ethological and social needs. It is widely agreed that primates do not make suitable domestic pets, however it is still legal to keep some species of primates as pets in the UK.The effects of theexotic pet trade on primate welfare arepoorly documented.Itis extremely likely that it will bedetrimental towards their physical and mental health, especially when kept in isolation fromother primates, but there is little evidence to show the long-term implicationsof social deprivation.This studyobserved the long term-effects of social isolation on black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella) rescued from the pet trade. Five individuals that were kept in social isolation whilst they were a pet(Isolation condition) were compared tofive individuals that were kept in social groups(Social condition).There was a significant differencebetween the frequenciesof abnormal behaviours between the two housing conditions(P =0.008). Individuals in the Isolation condition performedmore abnormal behaviours than the individuals in the Social condition. There was also a significant difference in the frequencies offeeding (including foraging) behaviours(P =0.032),with the Social condition showingmuch higher frequencies offeeding behaviours than the Isolation condition.These results emphasisethe importance of appropriate social housing forprimates in the pet trade, as years of social rehabilitation have evidently not abolished theseabnormal behaviours that originatedfrom being kept in social isolation as pets. Furthermore, it reiterates that primates are not suitable pets as most environments cannot suitably meet their complex ethological and social needs. 

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