Primate Essay at the Zoo

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  • Topic: Primate, Atelidae, Prehensile tail
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  • Published : May 29, 2013
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Clay Chastain
Dr. Hamilton, ANTH 2310-1
The Zoo Project: Nonhuman Primate Research
7 November 2006

Background Information
In the world, a variety of primate species exist. Each species a unique function in the wild and differs, sometimes greatly, from another primate species. Two species that will be analyzed here are the Wolf’s Guenon (Cercopithecus wolfi), an Old World monkey, and the Black-handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), a New World monkey. While both are very similar at first glance, each monkey is surprisingly different. One key feature to note that causes such a wide variety in these species is their physical location. The separation of a common ancestor through continental drift caused the Wolf’s guenon to evolve in Africa, specifically throughout the Congo territories and Uganda (Wolf’s Monkey Website) (Figure 7). However, the black-handed spider monkey evolved independently throughout the tropical regions of Central and South America (Black-handed Spider Monkey Website) (Figure 3). Because of this separation in habitat, there are a range of differences between these monkeys; still, there is a degree of similarity on many aspects of these monkies. The Black-handed Spider monkeys are “fruigivorous, preferring a diet of 90% fruit and seeds”; however, they also eat some insects on occasion. They eat a great deal throughout the day, as well as eating while suspended in the air on a tree branch or manmade object. They do not, however, “pick fruit and carry it to another location to be eaten” later on. In zoos, they are fed from a mixture of vegetables, such as celery, and fruits, such as bananas (Spider Monkey Website). The Wolf’s guenon has a moderately similar diet which consists of “[f]ruit, leaves, flowers, nectar and insects”. In terms of reproduction, each Wolf’s guenon will have a gestation period of 160 to 170 days, give birth to generally one child, and each child will usually survive up to 26 years in all (Wolf’s Monkey Website). Slightly different, the black-handed spider monkey has a gestation period of 226 to 232 days. The female is sexually active at four to five years old, while the male is sexually mature at five years. Any baby that is produced will be solid black (Figure 1) and will be dependent on the mother’s milk for around two years. (Spider Monkey Website). Socially, little is “known of [the Wolf’s guenon]'s social structure, however comparisons with other guenon species indicate that the Wolf’s guenon probably live in small family groups consisting of a parental pair and their offspring” (Wolf’s Monkey Website). Fortunately, more is known about the black-handed spider monkey; they travel in groups of four to thirty-five individuals, usually with twice as many males as females (Wildfacts Website). As well, the females have a more active role as a leader in the group as do the males. In terms of conservation, the black-handed spider monkey is not endangered and is listed as “low risk” by the IUCN (Spider Monkey Website). Similarly, the Wolf’s guenon is also not incredibly endangered. Despite this, due to habitat loss, their numbers have suffered a “considerable reduction” (Wolf’s Monkey Website).

Zoo Setting
The setting that this research took place was at the San Antonio Zoo on Saturday, October 21, 2006. The temperature was a temperate 76 F with a generally clear sky and bright sun at the start of the research at 12:40 PM. Both of the primate species are located in relatively small enclosures designed to maximize space; they seem to be focused on the vertical aspect instead of the horizontal. As such, they are both taller than wider, which is most likely a simulation of arboreal life to some extent. While a portion of the habitats are constructed of wooden branches, much of the objects placed inside the enclosures were manmade objects (such as a hanging plastic bucket placed in the Wolf’s guenons’ cage). The habitats are,...
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