Caregiving and resocialization

Een dierverzorger observeert de wasbeerhondenThe animals that arrive at AAP have often been neglected, not only with respect to their physical care but also in their social environment.  At AAP, they receive the professional care that they need, so that they can once again be an ‘animal.’  This care can be divided into 3 categories: veterinary care, nutrition and behaviour.

PERSONAL PLAN

AAP has a team of expert veterinarians, behaviour biologists and experienced animal care givers who endeavor to improve the physical and mental health of the animal and help him stay that way.  Upon arrival, the animals first go into quarantine.  Here they are given an extensive medical check-up.   A treatment plan is drawn up for each animal, in which resocialization, possible medications and nutrition are described.  More often than not, the animal has been given improper food for years (such as sweets, coffee and cola) which means that a personal diet plan needs to be developed.  As soon as the animals are allowed to leave quarantine, they go to their new living areas.  Here they are observed and treated further until they are ready to move to a permanent location.  Every year all the inhabitants of AAP receive a medical check-up, whereby vaccinations are given, and a check is made to ensure that all is going well.  If not, then steps are taken.

IMITATION

Rest and veterinary care are essential for the animals that arrive at AAP.  But that’s not all: quite often the animals need to break bad habits.  Many of the animals that we rescue are social animals.  Due to their past, they have not been able to learn how to get along with others of their species.  For instance, they don’t know how to communicate or which social rules apply.  At AAP, we are convinced that social animals are the happiest when they are with their own kind, so we strive to eventually place them in a group.

A primate that comes out of quarantine is first allowed to grow accustomed to the new environment, the new animal caregivers and the outside accommodations.  Then we try to determine which group would be the best for the newcomer.  Once that has been decided, the newcomer is first placed in accommodation next to others of his species.  The animals can then see, smell and hear each other.  The caregivers will endeavor to add the newcomer to the group only if there is positive contact.  Quite often this begins with one of the group members, after which other group members are gradually introduced.  During this process, the caregivers observe and record the behaviour of the animals.  Many primates have never seen any other primate.  They learn the social rules from members of the group and through imitating them.  This does not take place immediately; sometimes arguments occur before the new animal finds his place in the pecking order and learns how to behave as a primate.

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‘UNLEARNING’

Most of the primates need to ‘unlearn’ their bad habits.  Former domesticated animals in particular are accustomed to human attention and therefore do not seek it from others of their species.  Therefore they don’t make friends!  If the animals are not given individual attention, they will stop seeking it and will make quicker contact with their own sort.

Primates that were previously kept in small cages or alone often show stereotypical behaviour like polar bears or they even wound themselves.  Distracting them with food puzzles, toys and others from their own species helps them to break their old habits.  The amount of time required before an animal can be placed in a group is different for each animal.  For instance, animals that were removed from their mothers at a very young age and therefore never learned social behaviour often require more time to learn this.  A lot of patience and attention usually ensure that this is successful.

MAMMALS: TOGETHER OR ALONE?

Resocialization  also takes place in the Mammal Department.  Semi-solitary animals (animals that usually live alone except in the mating season or in times of excessive food supplies) also are given the company of a member of their species.  We know that these animals often live together in the wild when there is sufficient food, so it is more efficient to place these animals in groups.

These animals show social behaviour towards each other and often sleep together in one nest, so group accommodation is also better for the welfare of these animals.

Rest and regularity are sacred at AAP.  In order to allow the animals to recover from their pasts – mentally and physically – it is important that they are not exposed to too much stimuli.  AAP is therefore not open to the public, such as a zoo or a children’s farm.  However, you can register for an organized tour or for a visit to our primate island.  Animals here are ready to be rehoused and are waiting for a new, permanent accommodation.

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