Living Together: Behavior and Welfare in Single and Mixed Species Groups of Capuchin (Cebus apella) and Squirrel Monkeys (Saimiri sciureus)

Rebecca Leonardi, Hannah M. Buchanan-Smith, Valerie Dufour, Charlotte MacDonald, Andrew Whiten

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48 Citations (Scopus)


There are potential advantages of housing primates in mixed species exhibits for both the visiting public and the primates themselves. If the primates naturally associate in the wild, it may be more educational and enjoyable for the public to view. Increases in social complexity and stimulation may be enriching for the primates. However, mixed species exhibits might also create welfare problems such as stress from interspecific aggression. We present data on the behavior of single and mixed species groups of capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) housed at the Living Links to Human Evolution Research Centre in the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Edinburgh Zoo. These species associate in the wild, gaining foraging benefits and decreased predation. But Cebus are also predators themselves with potential risks for the smaller Saimiri. To study their living together we took scan samples at >= 15 min intervals on single (n = 109) and mixed species groups (n = 152), and all occurrences of intraspecific aggression and interspecific interactions were recorded. We found no evidence of chronic stress and Saimiri actively chose to associate with Cebus. On 79% of scans, the two species simultaneously occupied the same part of their enclosure. No vertical displacement was observed. Interspecific interactions were common (>2.5/hr), and equally divided among mildly aggressive, neutral, and affiliative interactions such as play. Only one aggressive interaction involved physical contact and was non-injurious. Aggressive interactions were mostly (65%) displacements and vocal exchanges, initiated almost equally by Cebus and Saimiri. Modifications to the enclosure were successful in reducing these mildly aggressive interactions with affiliative interactions increasing in frequency and diversity. Our data suggest that in carefully designed, large enclosures, naturally associating monkeys are able to live harmoniously and are enriched by each other. Am. J. Primatol. 72:33-47, 2010. (C) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-47
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • mixed species zoo exhibit
  • social enrichment
  • welfare
  • Cebus
  • Saimiri


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