Primate Observation - San Diego Zoo

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Mark Mariano
Professor Guenther
Anthropology 131
November 25, 2012
Primate Observation
Primates are one of the most interesting mammals on earth, not only because of their complex social structures, but because they hold so many similar characteristics to humans. Primates are often cited as our closest living relatives and on two separate occasions I observed four separate species of primates at the San Diego Zoo that can justify their use of their physical characteristics and behaviors that may be similar as well as different to the other primates and ours.

The first group of primates I mainly observed were the Bonobos, also known as the pygmy chimps to many. On this occasion a youngster running around wildly on two legs and looking back as if something or another Bonobo was following him caught my immediate attention. I sat there observing him for about 5 minutes, he wasn’t paying attention at the observation windows as I was the only person there at the time, he was more focused on looking the back of him suspiciously. He was able to retain his balance and would use his left fist flat to the ground to hold hit body up when looking over this right shoulder. Suddenly he climbs down from a hill area down towards the glass and I noticed something in his right hand. He was holding a brown baby bunny that seemed to be alive. He observes the mammal in his hand with one hand and looks back again at another primate, which I can only assume was his mother or another older Bonobo in the exhibit. The youngster springs into action using bipedal locomotion and his free left hand to swing from the available branches in the ground to go toward the central part of the exhibit. Following him to the central part the youngster is found at the central cliff looking back as if the other Bonobo followed him. The bunny was out of sight as his hands were free at this point pacing in circles, as zookeepers we’re throwing fruits from a higher point towards three other Bonobos not in full view, including the one that followed the youngster. The youngster then on two legs again holds the baby bunny, which unfortunately is now lifeless and hides it in the bush then runs over to the zookeepers to retrieve his snacks. Bonobos stand about around 2 to 3 feet tall and we’re very excited in nature on my visit. High eyebrow ridges defined their physical appearance, and limbs we’re slender and long. On my observation, their bipedal locomotion was present most of the time when running and walking around observing. On my particular visit I found their behavior very entertaining as well as interesting. They have a large mandible and teeth shown that could’ve probably eaten the baby bunny in one bite, but the youngster only saw the small mammal as a toy. I also found that the youngster was afraid of the adult Bonobos finding out about his ‘toy’ and would keep looking back as if he we’re in trouble. I feel that the behavior exhibited shows the intelligence behind the Bonobos as well as their active use of bipedal locomotion.

They next group of Primates I observed on this particular visit were the Gorillas. On a series of two separate visits I found 3 gorillas on exhibit. On my first visit I observed a silverback male gorilla relaxing against the glass eating a bunch of long leaves scattered around the floor exhibit. There was what I assumed to be a female in the upper part of the exhibit napping as well as a youngster towards the center of the exhibit in and out of view. On this visit I focused on the male resting against the glass. Long forearms and large hands that according to our text are in part of using them for knuckle walking define his physical locomotion. His posture is straight and sloped in towards the middle. He sits upright with his legs bored-out as if he we’re sitting cross legged. He takes the leaves one by one grasping it with his fist and inserts it in his...
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