Behavioral Sciences, What We Can Do for YOU

Behavioral Sciences, What We Can Do for YOU

Stefanie Nelsen

(Note from the PPI President: Stefanie has recently rejoined PPI as the Head of Behavioral Sciences.  She has a diverse background that makes her uniquely qualified for working with nonhuman primates in the various venues and capacities that are required of her.  She is a graduate of Hope College, where she entered the pre-veterinary program with a double major in Biology and Psychology. Stefanie attended Auburn University in the lab of Steve Dobson, where she worked on her Masters in Biology. Her thesis was focused on the Self-Medicative Behaviors of Nonhuman Primates.  She’s been employed as an animal care giver at Hope College, interned at the Zoo of Atlanta, and more recently worked as a Behaviorist/Colony Supervisor at SNBL USA Scientific Resource Center in Alice, TX.)


The Behavioral Sciences group at Primate Products, Inc., is focused on providing nonhuman primates, both resident and industry-wide, with optimal animal care and welfare. We accomplish this in several ways: 1) our own animals, 2) our available products, 3) our onsite services, and 4) our offsite services.


Figure 1: (left to right) Natural Habitat, PPI Activity Cage

PPI’s resident animals are made up of research purpose bred macaques, both rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and cynos (Macaca fascicularis), housed primarily in outside socially compatible group configurations in beautiful and tropical southwest Florida. The habitat that our animals reside in was designed with the macaque species in mind. There are various perching locations from rigid PVC perches to swinging flexible hanging structures, multiple visual barriers from colored solid hanging structures to tunnels and partial contact attached doors and chutes, and multiple sites and methods of feed distribution, all based upon what is biologically significant to these animals. Additionally, our animals are regularly behaviorally evaluated, and if any are observed exhibiting abnormal behavior(s) they are addressed on a case by case basis with treatment plans focused on addressing the cause(s) behind the abnormal behaviors rather than just the symptoms.

In addition to animals, PPI also offers enrichment, handling and training equipment, and caging for nonhuman primates.  All of these items were/are developed and tested by people that work with these animals every day. A main focus is on providing macaques with various opportunities for choices that are based upon their behaviors and needs, which is reflected in many of the products that we offer.

Figure 2

Figure 2: An Ideal Research Model from Birth to Grave

The Behavioral Sciences staff at PPI provides a variety of services at our Panther Tracks Learning Center. In addition to our popular Primadaption workshops, we not only can provide temperament evaluations, social partner recommendations, and operant conditioning training of various tasks, but we also can effectively and successfully manage client owned colonies and breeding programs utilizing a behavioral management approach. We have provided and continue to provide pre-trained animals for tasks such as pole and collar or target and station training, and we have fairly recently been utilizing temperament evaluations to improve our training, enrichment, and socializations in both pairs and groups. It is our desire to develop a macaque research model that is “normal”, adaptable, a Willing Worker, and most importantly provided a standard of living that is fairly consistent from birth to grave.

Last but not least, the Behavioral Sciences group offers Behavioral Consulting for any nonhuman primate behavioral issues. Our consulting is customized for the needs of your program. We have worked with various clients from small university labs to big pharma groups to government agencies, and it’s no surprise that each and every one of these clients have/had specific behavioral demands. We have provided hands-on operant conditioning programs, socialization assistance, and development of written Environmental Enhancement Programs just to name a few. Our ultimate goal is to improve macaque animal welfare not just in southwest Florida but industry-wide.