Welfare of primates: breeding

Breeding animals may need specialised accommodation within enclosures, to provide protection from other animals.

Breeding and primates

Breeding should only be undertaken if:

  • adequate steps have been taken to protect the genetic health of the offspring, for example to prevent inbreeding or hybridisation (breakdown of species boundaries that could eventually result in the loss of a pure parental species) and possible welfare problems at a later stage, preferably as part of a recognised and co-ordinated breeding programme
  • there is enough space for the group to enlarge, or the keeper is confident that offspring can be placed with owners able to provide suitable care.
  • there are a number of contraception methods available to prevent unwanted breeding - these can be surgical or medical

Breeding animals may need specialised accommodation within enclosures, to provide protection from other animals. Breeding animals and young animals may have particular nutritional requirements.

Young animals have a long dependency period, and they must not be separated from their mothers/families during this time. Weaning does not signal the end of this dependency period.

How long a primate should stay with its mother

In order to learn vital “life skills” a primate should stay with its mother through the birth and rearing of a sibling, generally until sexual maturity. For example sexual maturity does not occur in capuchin monkeys until they're about over four years of age.

However capuchins are often removed from their mothers at only several months so the infant monkey clings instinctively to whoever is holding it; is pliable, cute and manageable for the first few years. Early removal has serious negative consequences – from behavioural abnormalities to improper brain development.

Hand-rearing should only be undertaken if essential, for example where baby animals are orphaned or rejected. Specialist advice should be sought.

A breeding health plan should be included in the veterinary health plan.

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