Positive reinforcement training of group-housed rhesus macaques



This paper details a protocol for the positive reinforcement training (PRT) of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Social groups of up to 10 adults were trained to simultaneously position themselves at individual stations, which could be moved as necessary, for research and husbandry practices. Using this protocol, it was possible for a single trainer to initialise training for each individual and maintain the stationing behaviour across the group, without separating animals. The researchers successfully trained 61 out of 65 animals housed in 11 social groups to station. This success led to a high participation in subsequent cognitive experiments, allowing for animals to be tested individually while still maintained in their group. This method has the potential to improve the welfare of animals used in psychological research. Station training can be used for a variety of husbandry practices and as a base for the development of more complex trained behaviours. The researchers encourage other facilities to explore and use PRT as a standard husbandry practice in order to improve the welfare of captive rhesus macaques.  


This research was funded by the NC3Rs grant NC/L000539/1


Kemp, C., Thatcher, H., Farningham, D., Witham, C., MacLarnon, A., Holmes, A. Semple, S., Bethell, E. J. (2017). A protocol for training group-housed rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) to cooperate with husbandry and research procedures using positive reinforcement. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 197, 90–100.


Find the full manuscript here.