Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Primate Behavior

Committee Chair

Matthew Altman

Second Committee Member

Kara Gabriel

Third Committee Member

Lori Sheeran


In this study, I analyzed primatologists’ perceptions regarding the habituation of wild nonhuman primates. I distributed an online survey to primatologists and received 406 responses, 286 of which were used in data analysis. I used two sets of six-scale Likert scoring questions to determine respondents’ perceived ethical concerns and ethical duties. Exploratory factor analysis of 11 items revealed three factors regarding ethical concern, including concerns for the indirect harms of habituation (M = 5.03; SD = 0.89), unhabituated behavior after habituation is established (M = 4.98; SD = 1.08), and harms during habituation (M = 3.94; SD = 1.35). Habituation potentially causing subjects to be less wary of humans and, therefore, vulnerable to poaching was most frequently ranked as most important (n = 117; 44%). For seven items related to perceived duties, exploratory factor analysis revealed two factors, where the factor regarding duties to mitigate human-caused harms rated higher than naturally occurring harms (M = 4.95, SD = 1.09; and M = 2.19, SD = 1.23, respectively). The duty not to stress subjects was most frequently ranked as most important (n = 58; 23.3%). I conducted forward stepwise multiple regression to determine predictor variables for the factors. Predictor variables included gender, the earning of a Ph.D. degree, years in primatology, the belief that primatologists should strive for less invasive methods, the belief that primatologists can be a completely neutral presence to their subjects, the NATURAL HARMS factor, the HUMAN-CAUSED HARMS factor, the UNHABITUATED HARMS factor, and the INDIRECT HARMS factor. The most common mitigation measures taken to reduce the harms of habituation were those that reduced stress in subjects, including adjusting behavior if individuals appear stressed (n = 221, 77.5%), engaging in non-threatening behaviors (n = 205; 71.9%), refraining from chasing subjects (n = 204; 71.6%), and wearing neutral clothing (n = 182; 63.9%). Using these data, I suggest future research regarding harms that have little information, especially poaching, and a two-level deliberation process, one at the policy level and one at the local level, to determine overall protocols and location-specific protocols that better mitigate the harms of habituation.

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