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Squirrel Monkey Husbandry Basics

General Procedures

Each interior animal room and group pen area has its own room check sheet ("room sheet") which is used by the animal technician servicing the area. The room sheet has space to record the high and low temperature for the room and the time the temperature readings were recorded. Additional space is provided for the technician to indicate various tasks completed on any given day. This includes cage changing, excreta pan changing, checking feed and water, emptying the trash, and sanitizing the floors. A "Comments" section is also provided.

All animal cages are sanitized on an established basis. The floors are flushed and sanitized after each cage changing procedure and at other times as necessary. In addition, animal housing rooms are completely sanitized biweekly. This includes sanitation of the walls, floor, ceiling and fixtures. If an animal room is completely emptied, a complete sanitation procedure is done, including a preliminary sanitation procedure followed by fogging with (or otherwise applying) a chemical sterilant.

All animal housing rooms are equipped with covered feed containers that will hold approximately 50-100 pounds of laboratory chow. The feed is monitored so that no feed is more than 90 days old when fed. The feed milling date is entered on the individual room sheet.

Animal rooms are entered and serviced according to a schedule provided by the animal husbandry supervisor. Any therapeutic or prophylactic procedures ordered by the clinical veterinarian will be performed by experienced laboratory animal technicians as required.

Animal Identification

All primates are routinely identified with a unique number used in our computerized Primate Record System (PRS) to store all information on that animal. This number is tattooed usually on the chest of the animal. In addition, squirrel monkeys are identified with a plastic neck tag. These tags bear the animal's unique ID number. They can easily be color coded to identify specific animals immediately, such as those animals belonging to specific research projects. An additional advantage to neck tags is the ability to find a specific animal within a group without catching every animal to check tattoos.

AVID implantable identification transmission chips are used on all squirrel monkeys. Implanted at one month of age, these chips offer permanent individual identification of animals.

Environmental Considerations

All interior animal rooms are temperature (24-30°C) and humidity (50-80%) controlled. The PRL HVAC system is connected to a computer for continuous monitoring. Temperature extremes can be detected 24 hours per day. There is an engineer on call at all times. Lighting is controlled by programmable light timers for each room. These light timers are set by the PRL staff according to the biological or clinical requirements of the animals being housed within each room. Light timers for the indoor and outdoor housing area for Saimiri are set to coincide with sunrise and sunset.

Security systems are in place at the PRL. The PRL is equipped with an electronic security system with a combination of motion sensors and door and window sensors. The alarm notifies campus police (who are on duty 24 hours per day) and designated members of the Department of Comparative Medicine.

Animal Diets

All animals are fed commercially available monkey chow formulated for New World Monkeys. Monkey chow is fed ad libitum (twice daily) and supplemented at least three times a week with fresh vegetables. Water is provided to all animals ad libitum via automatic watering devices in each pen or cage. Cages without automatic watering devices are supplied with water bottles with sipper tubes. Animals are supplemented with fruit slices and mealworms periodically. Additionally, Gatorade and yogurt are sometimes prescribed by the clinical veterinarian. All animals are fed each morning following completion of the cage sanitation procedures and again in the afternoon.

All commercial animal feed materials are shipped directly from the factory to our facilities in quantities that will ensure freshness. Animal feeds are stored on pallets in each facility in a clean, dry environment. Milling dates are monitored as a standard procedure to make certain that only fresh feed is used. Feed with a milling date of more than 90 days is discarded. Stainless steel feeders are attached to each cage or pen. Since group housed animals may fight over feed, sufficient feed is provided at multiple sites in the cage to allow ad libitum feeding throughout the daylight hours.

Animal Watering

There are two basic types of watering devices used. There are bottles with sipper tubes and automatic watering systems which consist of low pressure water pipes equipped with watering valves. Monkeys unaccustomed to these devices must be shown how they operate to avoid dehydration. This is most often a problem with newly imported animals. Animals housed in pens or cage/rack units are watered continuously via an automatic watering system. Domestic water is passed through a filtering system and delivered to the animals through a manifold attached to the rear of the cage/rack unit or to the wall in pen areas. If necessary, animals may be watered via watering bottles affixed to the front of the cage. Watering bottles are changed no less than three times per week.

Cleaning, Sanitation and Personnel Hygiene

The maintenance of monkeys in cages limits their living space to a relatively small area. This results in concentration of feces and urine within the animals' immediate living area. Many pathogens in otherwise healthy animals are shed in large numbers in feces. Therefore, the daily cleaning of cages and contact surfaces is an essential part of the preventive medicine program at the PRL. Routine animal husbandry/cage sanitation schedules have been developed for the PRL. All group pens are cleaned daily using high pressure hoses. Pens are scrubbed every two weeks with a detergent-disinfectant. Cages and racks are changed and sanitized at least every two weeks. Excreta pans are flushed daily. Accessory items, such as catch gloves, are confined to specific areas to prevent fomite transmission of pathogens and are cleaned or replaced regularly. Bedding materials, when used, are emptied into plastic can liners (in the cage sanitation area) which are then sealed and transported daily for disposal.

Technicians and other personnel working with monkeys are provided clean protective clothing daily. Personnel are required to wear a surgical mask or respirator and gloves when handling primates. Persons developing positive tuberculin reactions are not permitted to work with monkeys until a sufficient period of treatment has elapsed to prevent the possible transmission of the disease to the colony. This is determined through consultation with the physician providing treatment. Latex gloves, leather catch gloves, face masks and head covers are worn whenever animals or their wastes are handled. The Department of Comparative Medicine provides uniforms to its technicians which are worn whenever animals or animal materials are handled. Technicians are not permitted to wear work clothes outside their work assignments. Showers and locker rooms are provided for bathing and changing into street clothes before leaving the facility.

Staff eating areas are physically separated from animal housing and work areas. Eating, drinking and smoking are not permitted in areas where squirrel monkeys are maintained or manipulated.

Daily Observation

The daily observation of all squirrel monkeys is an important husbandry and veterinary support procedure. Technicians are trained to take this part of their duties very seriously. An overlooked animal during the morning observations could die before being discovered. Observations of all animals are carried out at least twice each day. The first observation is made before cages are cleaned in the morning. The floor of the cage is observed for signs of blood, aborted or stillborn fetuses (during the birth season) and animals sitting or lying on the floor of the cage. An estimation of the feed consumed is also made at this time. If water bottles are being used, the water consumed is also estimated. A second observation is made late in the day. Animals that do not appear interested in eating are observed for signs of injury or disease. During the birth season, observations are often useful in determining which females are nearing parturition. The beginning of labor and abnormal fetal presentations may be observed at this time.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center