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Observing Zoo Primates

Category: Essay Writing

Observing Zoo Primates

Paper details

ANTH 1: Introduction to Physical Anthropology





The Primate Discovery Center at the San Francisco Zoo is home to some of the most endangered primate species in the world, including Francois’ langurs and lion-tailed macaques.  The outdoor yards for patas monkeys and mandrills provide them with some of the aerial space and high climbing structures found in their native habitats.  As of 2007, at least 17 primate species can be seen at the S.F. Zoo.


Day-active lemurs can be seen in the recently opened Lemur Forest, which features five different species of these amazing Madagascar primates in a large outdoor setting.  In addition to black lemurs, the Forest is also home to black and white ruffed lemurs, red ruffed lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs and white fronted lemurs.

The S.F. Zoo is also home to a number of other primates, including chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, orangutans, and several quite rare primates such as the black howler monkeys, siamangs, and black and white colobus monkeys.


Visiting the S.F. Zoo provides a laboratory for observing primate behavior!  Of course, the behavior of primates in captivity does differ from their behavior in natural habitats.  However, comparative studies of captive and wild populations of the same species have demonstrated that under good captive conditions, the qualitative aspects of behavior differ little from those observed in the wild.  In captivity, however, social interaction is apt to be more frequent and more intense than it is in the wild (i.e. the Lemur Forest at the S.F. Zoo), or less frequent than it is in the wild (i.e. some of the monkeys at the S.F. Zoo).


Zoo Hours and Admission Costs:

The San Francisco Zoo is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm daily, 365 days/year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  General admission is $10.00 for adults, $7.00 for persons 12-17 years old.

Earning Extra Credit for a Zoo Visit:

To earn credit for visiting the S.F. Zoo, answer the 18 questions that follow.  Type and double-space your answers!  Turn in your answers on or anytime before the day of our FINAL EXAM.  Also, I will NOT accept your report unless it is accompanied by your Zoo ADMISSION STUB.



1. List by genus, species, & common name the PROSIMIANS one can see at the Zoo.


2. List by genus, species, & common name the AMERICAN MONKEYS one can see at the Zoo [If you don’t know how to tell the difference between American monkeys and monkeys from Africa and Asia, consult your resources –text, teacher, zoo docent].


3. Please list by genus, species, & common name, if known, the AFRICAN MONKEYS one can see at the S.F. Zoo.

4. Please list by genus, species, & common name, if known, the ASIAN MONKEYS one can see at the S.F. Zoo.


5. Please list by genus, species, & common name, if known, ALL the APES one can see at the S.F. Zoo [If you don’t know how to tell the difference between monkeys and apes, consult your resources –text, teacher, zoo docent].


6. Of all of the primates one can see at the S.F. Zoo, which ones are the MOST NUMEROUS?


7. Which apes at the S.F. Zoo have INFLATABLE THROAT SACS?


8. Although most primates are diurnal (day active), several species are nocturnal (night active). List by Genus-species, common name, & geographical distribution at least two NOCTURNAL primate species one can see at the S.F. Zoo.

9. An omnivorous dietary pattern is one of the evolutionary trends of the Order Primates. However, not all species are omnivorous; some are dietary specialists. Name (by Genus-species, common name, and geographical area of origin) 2 representatives of the “LEAF-EATING” MONKEY GROUP at the S.F. zoo.


10. Primates are characterized by a diversity of locomotor habits unmatched among the Mammals. These patterns can be crudely divided into several major categories. Based upon our classroom lectures, your observations at the zoo, and your textbook, please name at least one primate species at the Zoo for each of the following types of locomotor patterns:


  • Terrestrial (on the ground) quadrupedalism
  • Knuckle-walking quadrupedalism
  • Brachiation (suspended below branches & swinging from one to another using the arms)
  • Arboreal quadrupedalism


11. List by Genus & species, common name, and geographical area of origin all primate species at the S.F. Zoo that have PREHENSILE TAILS.


12. With reference to the Black Howler Monkey, complete the following statements:


  1. Their primary foods are _____.
  2. The reason the howlers are the only primates in this part of the zoo who can hang by their tail is ______.


13. With reference to the Lion-tailed macaque, complete the following statements:


  1. They are the most ______ of macaques.
  2. They communicate visually through _____.
  3. They are the _____ endangered macaques.
  4. Their primary habitat is _____.

14. With reference to the Francois Langurs, complete the following statements:


  1. Much of their habitat was destroyed _____.
  2. Their diet consists primarily of ____, which necessitates _____ to aid in digestion.
  3. Their primary habitat is _____


15. With reference to the Ring-Tailed Lemurs, complete the following statements:


  1. They live in social groups of ___ to ___ animals.
  2. _____ are dominant to _____.
  3. Their tail is used as both a _____ and for _____.


16. How many chimpanzees are living at the S.F. Zoo? From where did they come?


17. When the male chimpanzee at the S.F. Zoo sways back and forth, what is he telling you?


18. OBSERVATION: Closely observe the gorillas for at least 60 uninterrupted minutes. Then write a 1-2 page essay (250 – 500 words) describing what you observed.


Your essay might discuss such topics as: patterns of social interaction including grooming behavior, dominance behavior, mother-infant relationships), composition of the group (number of females, males, adults, sub-adults), feeding patterns, locomotor patterns, movement patterns, other zoo-related behavior.  Although your essay should focus on the gorillas, please also comment on the behavior of the human primates as they observe the gorillas (i.e. Are they trying to communicate with the gorillas?  If so, are they successful?  What else are the humans doing?)

Preferred language style   US English