Effects of Olfactory Enrichment on the Stereotypic Behaviors of Owl Monkeys (Aotus nancymaae)

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Florida Southern College
The purpose of environmental enrichment is to improve the well-being of captive animals. Types of environmental enrichment include, but are not limited to, the introduction of music, toys, and scents. Animals given such enrichment often exhibit a reduction in stereotypic behaviors (e.g., pacing and self-scratching), which are often linked to elevated stress. Owl monkeys (Aotus nancymaae) are nocturnal, monogamous primates. In captivity, some owl monkeys exhibit repetitive flipping, pacing, and scratching. Despite reliance on chemical communication and use of olfactory cues in foraging and social interactions, their responses to olfactory enrichment have not been investigated. We examined the effects of olfactory enrichment on the behavior of captive owl monkeys (DuMond Conservancy, Miami, FL). Ten pairs of monkeys were systematically presented four different types of scents (cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage). Male and female owl monkeys displayed the greatest interest to cinnamon (via sniffing and touching scent vials). Of the five females that flipped, four flipped less often when cinnamon was present than during control trials (empty spice vials). The rates of scratching and pacing were not affected by the presence of the scents. Our findings corroborate previous studies in mice, felids, and canids, which suggest that the presence of cinnamon decreases repetitive behaviors and improves welfare. Olfactory enrichment elicits interest and reduces repetitive flipping in owl monkeys and may offer similar benefits to other nocturnal primates.
Honors Thesis Spring 2020
Night monkeys, Animal behavior, Cognition in animals, Animal welfare, Environmental enrichment (Animal culture), Sensory evaluation, Cinnamon