How Do You Stimulate Captive Squirrel Monkeys

How Do You Stimulate Captive Squirrel Monkeys

Alisa Opar
Published: 01/06/2010

Squirrel monkeys are natural Jell-O wrestlers. No, not the 'sport' in which opponents compete in a gelatin-filled ring. Rather, give them gobs of the shifting, slippery stuff with fruit and they'll dig through it to get at the produce. At least, that’s how squirrel monkeys at the Bronx Zoo responded when presented with blue gelatin with blueberries recently.

This was the first time the cute creatures were offered gelatin, says Melissa Nelson, the zoo’s curatorial science fellow for animal behavior, but other primates at the zoo have been given the snack previously. “They all seem to really enjoy it and we reserve it as a special treat,” she says.

The jiggly concoction stimulates the monkeys’ foraging instincts, she explains.

“It really is not about the food as much as it is about the fun process of ‘finding’ the food,” says Nelson, pointing out that the monkeys in the video ignore loose berries and instead dig through the wiggly mass for more. “The monkeys have more than adequate amounts of food available to them throughout the day but they are also offered food that is more difficult and therefore more fun to get. We give them many options for expressing their natural behaviors.”