The similarity of the biochemical and physiological processes of monkeys and human beings makes the non-human primate an extremely valuable research animal species. The monkey's mental capacity, which goes far beyond that of all other research animals, must be a primary consideration in its care and handling.
Most of the monkeys used in research studies have been imported from their natural habitats. This practice is in the process of being discontinued. Breeding colonies are being established in more controlled environments, but the cost of producing them in quantities will be greatly increased. Monkeys are difficult to handle and can be dangerous. Special handling procedures must be employed to properly care for the monkey.
The monkey's living environment is extremely important. If it is carefully prepared, the cage will not be a restraining device to the monkey, but "home." Without the home condition, the monkey's mental and physical health will be adversely affected. Proper conditions in the cage depend upon the type of primate, although most are able to adapt to some variations, especially temperature changes, if they are gradual.
Sunlight is one of the "extra" considerations monkeys require. Sunlight increases the monkey's level of contentment and "at-homeness." If at all possible, an effort should be made to include natural sunlight in the monkey's environment.
As well as having good physical facilities, the monkeys must be managed well to ensure reliable research results. Routine care and cleanliness are essential for the monkey's welfare. The cage should be large with appropriate play objects and good feeding and watering conditions. Extra attention should be paid to cage door fasteners to prevent escapes. As an extra precaution, windows and vents in the surroundings should be screened.
Kind handling by humans can help to make the monkey's temperament more gentle and cooperative. But there is a definite danger in handling animals that are new to captivity. The instinctive response of the frightened monkey is to bite or scratch. If the monkey happens to be a carrier of monkey B-virus or some other virus, the wound can be fatal. Handlers going into gang cages should be fully covered and should wear face masks.
Because of the primates' advanced brain capacity, technicians need to attend to the monkey's responses more carefully. Monkeys are capable of anticipating a routine, of being amused, angered or bored. Their group and individual responses should be observed to gain the most knowledge from these valuable laboratory animals.