Self-injurious Behavior in Zoo Primates

Abstract

Researchers have long known that social isolation of some primates, particularly in infancy, can lead to the development of abnormal behaviors including self-injurious behavior (SIB). However, SIB can also occur in non-isolate-reared primates and can be triggered by frustration or environmental events. The subjects of reports of SIB have mostly been laboratory primates, usually macaques. Researchers had not systematically studied whether SIB occurs in zoo primates, and if so to what extent. Here we report the results of a questionnaire-based survey of British and Irish zoos on the extent of SIB in zoo primates, and whether it was associated with any environmental or developmental events. Responses indicated that though SIB occurred across a range of primate species, its incidence was very low. Respondents identified a variety of environmental events as implicated in initiating SIB, and though the data set is too small to confirm them statistically, several trends were discernible. We conclude that SIB is not a major problem in zoo primates.

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Acknowledgments

We thank all the zoos that responded to our survey. We thank the Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland (FZG) Research Group, particularly Amy Plowman and Stephanie Wehnelt, for supporting the research and helping to ensure its success.

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Correspondence to Geoff R. Hosey.

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Hosey, G.R., Skyner, L.J. Self-injurious Behavior in Zoo Primates. Int J Primatol 28, 1431–1437 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-007-9203-z

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Keywords

  • hair-pulling
  • self-aggression
  • self-biting
  • self-injurious behavior