Background information and definitions
Different species of primates show considerable variation in their natural diets. For example marmosets will eat gum as well as fruit, flowers, insects and other small animals and Macaques will eat both plants and meat. It is important that the diet of primates in captivity should be designed to reflect the appropriate natural diet, using fresh produce, of the species, giving them the opportunity to search and manipulate their food as they would in the wild.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, before-and-after study in 1996 in the USA (Schapiro et al. 1996) found that when fresh produce (fruit and vegetables) were provided to rhesus macaques Macaca mulatta more time was spent feeding and less time inactive than when pellets were fed. Time spent feeding increased from 14 minutes/hour when pellets were fed to 27 minutes/hour when fresh produce was offered. Inactivity was lower with fresh produce (two minutes/hour) than when just pellets were provided (five minutes/hour). A portion of 125g of fresh produce was offered (60% fruit and 40% vegetables) for six months, with the varieties of fruit and vegetables (n=40) offered rotated weekly. The fresh produce was presented in feeding devices to 63 individually housed macaques at intervals of 1.5 hours, during which 15 minutes of animal observations were conducted on all monkeys. Fresh food was presented to each monkey every weekday for six months with control observations when just pellets were provided conducted over the same six months between times when enrichment devices were given. (CJ)Study and other actions tested