The primates I saw at the Greensboro Science Center were javan gibbons, lemurs (ring tailed lemurs, red ruffed lemurs, and mongoose lemurs), and black howler monkeys.
The gibbon enclosure was a decent size, especially considering it only holds one adult male, one adult female, and one infant gibbon and because the gibbons are small primates. However, it is difficult to discern whether or not the space is sufficient for them, because during the time I saw them they were mostly sedentary. Therefore, I am not sure how much they move around in the enclosure during their more active times. I personally did feel pleased by the size of the space, though. The gibbons in the group were all the same species – it was composed of two mates and their infant. I did not witness any strange behavior that indicates stress from captivity. It was extremely interesting to watch one of the adult gibbons walking bipedally on the ground to take some grass to eat. The gibbon had to walk with its arms held out for balance, which is a behavior I would not have expected, but upon seeing it I realized the necessity of it. Besides this, the gibbons did not move much from the logs they were sitting on, except for the infant who was mostly playing but itself.
Below: the two adult gibbons on branches and the infant with its blanket on the ground (picture taken by me)
Below: the infant gibbon with its blanket (picture taken by me)
For a while, the infant was on the ground with a small piece of blanket-type fabric, and it seemed to be amusing itself by pulling the blanket over itself and rolling around. Later, the gibbons had moved to ledges on the rock structure by their indoor enclosure. Here, the infant was swinging from ropes hanging from the ceiling and the adults were still not really playing with it.
The lemur enclosure was definitely too small for the number of lemurs in it. I think there were about 10 lemurs in the enclosure, and it was at least half the size of the gibbon enclosure (if not more). The lemurs were very active while I was watching them, and they definitely did not seem to have enough space. I think the enclosure should be at least double the size. The lemur exhibit had three species, which are a common grouping. They were playing on different tree branches, small hanging hammock-type swings, ledges on a rock formation, and a tube hanging from the ceiling. They were also climbing the netting of the enclosure.
Below: a lemur on one of the swings (picture taken by me)
No abnormal behavior was evident, but the lemurs were mostly very active (besides the mongoose lemurs, who stayed on the ledge of the rock formation and did not movie). They were jumping between different swings and branches and sitting in the hanging tube. Something unique was that there was a ring tailed lemur that was missing an arm. This could have been a deformation, or otherwise an injury sustained in captivity. Dr. Rodrigues explained that sometimes limbs have to be amputated after primates stick them through holes in the fencing of enclosures and cannot get them back out. Despite its disability, the lemur was just as active as the others and was doing the same things.
Lastly, the howler monkey exhibit was perhaps the most exciting to watch. The enclosure was slightly larger than the lemur enclosure, but not by much, and there were about 5 howler monkeys in it (of only one species).
Below: a howler monkey on one of the logs (picture taken by me)
Once again, it would have been much better to have a larger enclosure. The howler monkeys were very active, which helped illustrate why the exhibit needs to be expanded. They were using all of the space, and it did not seem to be enough. Something unique about the howler monkeys’ behavior was their high level of activity. We all expressed our surprise that the howler monkeys were the most active of the three primates we saw! Howler monkeys are expected to be a more sedentary species. Another interesting behavior was seen when, at a couple points in time, howler monkeys were traveling across the enclosure on the ground, which is something howler monkeys usually do not do. They were amusing themselves in a habitat similar to the lemurs’ – it had various tree branches and some swings, and the monkeys were also climbing a fair amount on the netting of the enclosure.
I found the exhibits dismaying, because they did not seem to have enough information about the primates. I think that more literature is good for several reasons; it helps the adults at the zoo understand more about the animals so they can explain to the children what is going on with more knowledge and less assumptions and misconceptions. Just in my short time watching the primates, I overheard some very incorrect statements that parents were making to their children about what the primates were doing. Also, more information would have been great about the origins of the gibbons and the threats that they face. If the value of zoos is promoting education and conservation of these primates, then more of an effort needs to be put into that element. It bothers me especially because that is probably the simplest part of the entire exhibit; it is not extremely difficult to find information about primates – I’m sure the majority of students in our Primate Behavior & Biology class could come up with better signage at these exhibits.