Week 15: Fossey Archives


The document that I chose was a letter from Dian Fossey to the DeVore Family, July 7, 1976. In the letter Fossey thanks the DeVore Family for their hospitality and allowing her to meet with some of their students at Cambridge University. Fossey also gives an update about the current situation going on at Kabara and how shocked she was when she returned about the current state of things. Fossey begins the letter by informing the DeVore family that she is trying to keep up with recounts and census work of the gorillas of Mt. Mikeno. Fossey says that the journey to Mt. Mikeno , “Is a beautiful ‘walk’ through rolling forested saddle terrain ranging from 10,000 to 11,000’ in altitude.” Fossey says, “in the past it used to be filled with elephant, buffalo, duiker, bush buck, and gorilla plus poachers.” However, Fossey says, “The elephant are depleted because the Africans have been poisoning them at the water holes.” Fossey shows the impact that this change has had on the topography, “The lack of elephant has resulted in an entirely different topography, including no trails.”
The impact that the poachers have had on the region has been significant. Fossey says that “On the way we did encounter poacher sites—when the poachers go this far into the forest to kill buffalo mainly, they make temporary ‘huts’ under the huge trunks of Hagenia tress where they store their fire-wood, corn and ‘tomato plants’.” Fossey encountered six such sites just along her route to Mt. Mikeno which only paints the picture of the larger number there probably are on the rest of the mountain. Fossey goes on to say, “In many ways Kabara has lost much of its magic- in two days we cut own 58 traps adjacent to the Kabara meadow. These were traps set for hyrax and duiker or bush-buck and were made by the guards and their helpers. Fossey mentions the amount of corruption that goes on in the park alone, “That park gets so much money and remains so totally corrupt. The guards make their ‘patrols’ every 9 to 10 days to check on the cabins only; whilst they are there they put out more traps and collect more skins and meat.”
Although Fossey mentions that the gorilla population is doing well with the three main groups looking stabilized with a good birth rate she still worries about their safety. Although the guards wouldn’t touch the gorillas for fear of her wrath the traps set up for other animals are right along gorilla routes. Fossey does her best to get the word out in the letter she pleads the DeVore Family to contact Schaller and let him know that, “There isn’t a duiker or an elephant to be found around Kabara.”
I think that although Dian Fossey a lot to bring about awareness to the issue of poachers she didn’t handle the situation the best way that she could. Instead of creating tense ties with the locals like Fossey did it is important to educate them and show them alternative ways of hunting and getting food that doesn’t harm the wildlife. Maybe working with wildlife organizations, local and national governments, and the UN to establish economic and food support to provide alternative food options other than bush meat. Showing the local populations the harm that comes from poaching animals and educate them so that they might also find a passion in protecting them. Something else than Dian Fossey failed to do is to let outsiders come in a look at “her” gorillas. By encouraging Eco Tourism and by allowing wildlife organization members to come to her camp and study with her and see the gorillas it would inspire more people to get involved and donate.

Source for Document: Dian Fossey Archives, Folder: MS 596 Box 13, DF Bio, 1976 July-Dec.


Week 16: Primate Live Feeds


The first primate that I looked at on the animal web cams were the Common Squirrel Monkeys at the Edinburgh Zoo. Common Squirrel Monkeys can be found in the South American tropical rainforest animals. Until fairly recently there were only two species of squirrel monkey but the genus has now been reclassified into five species showing an increased population and variation. Squirrel monkeys live in groups that can reach up to 100 individuals. Squirrel monkeys spend most of their time foraging for fruit, mainly in the lower canopy and the understory. Fruit is a large part of their diet but they also eat insects and other small animal prey. Squirrel monkeys are known for their short, greyish colored coat except for their legs which are bright yellow. They have white faces with a peak of dark fur on the forehead and a dark muzzle. At the Edinburgh Zoo the Common Squirrel Monkey can be found at their Living Links Center. The Living Links Center is a field station and research center for the study of primates. At the Living Links Center the capuchin and squirrel monkeys are kept together in the same enclosure to promote natural interspecific interaction. However, the enclosure is designed to allow the two species to remove themselves from any situation where they may feel uncomfortable. This type of enclose I see has some positives and negatives. Some positives are that the enclosure allows for enrichment for the animals. However some draw backs include unnatural interactions that might not happen in the wild and only placing the animals together in an exhibit for visitor experience.

The second animal that I watched on the web cam was the orangutans at the San Diego Zoo. Orangutans live in tropical and swamp forests on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutans are the largest arboreal mammal and the only great ape found in Asia. Orangutans spend most of their time in the trees, swinging from branch to branch. The Sumatran orangutan lives on Sumatra. Their hair is longer and lighter-colored than the Bornean species. The adult male’s cheek pads, known as flanges, form rigid half circles on the sides of his face and both males and females usually develop beards as they age. The orangutan exhibit at the San Diego Zoo is quite impressive. Their exhibit provides an environment where the arboreal orangutans and their exhibit mates, a pair of siamangs, can climb and swing on play structures, ropes, and sway poles. They exhibit also includes two simulated termite mounds that offer condiments for the orangutans to retrieve mustard, honey, and barbecue sauce. The orangutans share the exhibit with the siamangs which inhabit the same forest of Indonesia and Malaysia. Some of the orangutans often stay up close to the glass observing their human visitors and interacting with visitors. They also show off their enrichment items, such as burlap sacks.

I believe that both the San Diego Zoo and the Edinburgh Zoo are both good examples of exhibits for primates to live in. Both zoos provide stimulus and environments that are similar to that which they live in the wild. Zoos provide good climbing structures and stimulus for the primates. The zoos also attempt conservation tactics. San Diego Zoo Global is working to raise awareness of the dangers all great apes face. They provide financial funding and support various conservation projects via the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Ape Taxon Advisory Group’s Conservation Initiative. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has placed a great emphasis on the conservation of biodiversity and the contribution that scientific research makes. One of the main RZSS primate projects runs at the Budongo Conservation field Center in Uganda researching endangered chimpanzees. They also are developing a number of conservation projects such as the ex-hunter scheme which aims to reduce the number of hunter snares found in the forest. The Edinburgh Zoo also supports scientific research through their Living Links facility which collaborates with St. Andrews University.

Edinburgh Zoo – Animals.” Edinburgh Zoo – Animals. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.
“Mammals | Orangutan.” Orangutan. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.

Polyspecific Associations


In addition to interactions that have negative consequences for a species ie competition, predation, parasitism, primates also engage in interactions that are of mutual benefit to all participating species. These relationships are referred to as polyspecific association in which social groups of two of more primate species aggregate. Some of these associations occur by chance, when two social groups of different species happen to come together in the same place during their daily activities. These types of associations are most common in areas with high population densities and or between primate species using mutual feeding sites.

One of the most common types of polyspecific associations observed is between Squirrel Monkeys and Brown Capuchins in eastern Brazilian Amazonia. The polyspecific association between the two mainly provides foraging benefits to squirrel monkeys.

Squirrel Monkeys are from the genus saimiri. Even though there are slight morphological differences among Squirrel Monkey species, all have the same general facial and body coloration. Squirrel Monkeys have white masks of fur around their eyes and dark brown or black coloration around the mouth and chin (Lang 2006). Squirrel monkeys are found widely throughout Central and South America. They are typically found in tropical lowland rainforest throughout the Amazon basin. Squirrel Monkeys are known as habitat generalist and have few restrictive requirements in regard to forest type. (Lang 2006). Squirrel Monkeys are insectivores-frugivores, consuming insects and fruit in their diet, depending on seasonal abundance of each resource.

Brown Capuchin monkeys are medium size and usually found in groups of about a dozen. The live and move through the upper understory and sub canopy levels of the rainforest to search for food. The can be found in the Central and Southwestern Amazon basin. Brown Capuchins are omnivores and eat meat, fruits, and vegetables.

Although it appears that these two monkeys are very different they often can be found together. The Squirrel Monkey and the Brown Capuchins have a polyspecific relationship that is one of the most well known in the primate world. It has been observed that Squirrel Monkeys and Brown Capuchins scavenge together. A big part of the Brown Capuchin’s diet are hard palm nuts. They have strong jaws which allow them to crack open the nuts (Strier, 2000). However, Squirrel monkeys do not have the jaw strength to open these nuts. By traveling with the Capuchins the Squirrel monkeys maintain associations in order to gain access to nuts that are dropped, discarded or cracked open by the Capuchins. The Squirrel monkeys are able to access this food source that they wouldn’t normally be allowed to get without having to do much work. Although at first glance it seems that there are no benefits to the Brown Capuchin monkeys however they get the benefit of having protection from predators by numbers. There isn’t much competition amongst food sources shown in other polyspecific associations because they do have different dietary patterns and the Squirrel Monkeys mostly scavenge food scraps from the Brown Capuchin Monkeys.


Cawthon Lang KA. 2006 March 16. Primate Factsheets: Squirrel monkey (Saimiri) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/squirrel_monkey&gt;. Accessed 2014 April 17.

Strier, Karen B. Primate Behavioral Ecology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000. Print.


Cognition is known as conscious mental activities such as thinking, understanding, learning and remembering. The complexity of primate communication and the demonstrated ability of some primates to practice deception, provides insights into the extent of their cognitive abilities that shed light on both the differences and similarities between what humans and primates do.

Investigations into primate cognition have focused on experiments conducted in both captivity and the field. One approach involves probing the mechanisms by which primates develop their cognitive abilities, through experiment with computers and the manipulation of objects in a variety of reasoning tasks. The second way primate cognition is investigated involves the ecological selection pressures associated with both spatial memory and tool use. Both of these increase primate access to food resources which therefore play important roles on their reproductive success. The third way involves the social advantages of maintaining, negotiating with, and deceiving allies. All these tasks require that an individual primate possess some understanding of its social position and own emotive state relative to others.

Ecological models for the evolution of primate intelligence attribute species differences in cognition to the relative strength of selection pressures for particular abilities. The ability to remember the location of important food resources is a considerable advantage to any primate because any increase in foraging efficiency saves time and energy. Some experiments conducted to test spatial memories included one study where researchers hid pieces of food around a large enclosure while one female chimpanzee watched. When reunited with her associates, she led them directly to the food. Insights into the foraging decisions and cognitive abilities were discovered through the use of provisioned platforms where they set up feeding platforms with fruits, varying which platforms were provisioned with fruit and the amount of fruit.

Tool use is also a common area of study for primate cognitive skills. Many animals manipulate objects in their natural environments to achieve a desired goal. However, many thought that tool use was the hallmark trait of humanity. It has been observed in studies that the varied tools and tool-related behaviors of primates represent cognitive abilities somewhere in between what other animals and humans possess. These cognitive skills can be observed in the wild. Chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans fashion shelters from leaves to shield themselves during rain storms, some orangutans use twigs to extract insects from bark, capuchin monkeys in Brazil have even been observed cracking open nuts using stone hammer and anvil tool-sets.

Finally researchers also do tests of primate social cognition. It has been observed that some primates demonstrate many forms of deceptions, such as concealment of their actions, inhibition of their vocalizations, and distraction of others’ attention. Researchers test levels of social cognitive skills by giving tasks such as having pairs of rhesus macaques learn to cooperate with one another in experimental setups to obtain a food reward yet they are unable to switch roles without additional learning trials.

Although these cognitive studies conducted on primates in captivity have brought us a lot of knowledge about their cognitive abilities it has also brought up the question of ethical treatment of primates. Insights into their perception, mental processes, and social awareness have helped to raise questions about our responsible and respectful treatment of them.



Week 12: Second Article Review


For my article review I decided to read an article that pertained to my final paper topic. For my final paper I decided to see what causes stress in primate societies, which groups are most affected by stress, and if stress has a lasting impact if experienced during youth. The article I read for this article review came from Science Daily entitled Monkey Study Reveals Why Middle Managers Suffer the Most Stress. The article touched on the issue of which groups were affected the most by stress by conducting a study on female Barbary macaques.

 A study conducted by the university of Manchester and Liverpool observed Barbary macaques has found that those in the middle hierarchy suffer the most social stress. Their work suggests that the source of this stress is social conflict. Katie Edwards from Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology observed a single female over one day, recording all incidents of social behavior. The following day fecal samples from the same female were collected and analyzed for levels of stress hormones. Researchers found tht the highest level of stress hormones came on the days following agonistic behavior. Unlike previous studies, which followed a group over a period of time and looked at average behaviors and hormone levels, this study allowed researchers to link the observed behavior of specific monkeys with their individual hormone samples from the period when they were displaying that behavior. Researchers were able to see where the observed monkey ranked in the social hierarchy and make the correlation that monkeys from the middle order had the highest recorded levels of stress hormones.

 The result of this finding makes sense. Monkeys in the middle of the hierarchy are involved with conflict from those below them as well as form above, whereas those in the bottom of the hierarchy distance themselves form conflict. The middle ranking macaques are more likely to challenge, and be challenged by, those higher on the social ladder.

 The study also looked about how this research could be related and applied to human behavior. People working in middle management might have higher levels of stress hormones compared to their boss at the top or the workers they manage. People in the middle are more ambitious and may want to access the higher-ranking lifestyle, which could mean facing more challenges. It is interesting to see how people in these middle positions are the ones who face the most stress. I think people often believe that those who are in the lowest levels of their social hierarchies would face the most stress due to the belief that they constantly need to watch their back and be worried about their standing in the group.

 I found this article really interesting. Instead of just following a group the researchers followed specific individual and see which behaviors caused the most stress and which spot they held in the social hierarchy. I found that this study was done well because it allowed researchers to target specific behaviors and individuals. I wonder if other studies similar to this one have been conducted targeting specific behaviors and individuals. It would be interesting to see if they had similar results.

Manchester University. (2013, April 2). Monkey study reveals why middle managers suffer the most stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2014 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130402091143.htm

Week 11: Proposed Paper Topics


After watching several videos in class about mothers having to deal with stress of protecting their young, individuals having stress about rank in their group, Dian Fossey’s gorillas having to deal with stress from human encroachment, as well as being a stressed out college student I decided to do a literature review on how stress affects primates as my final paper. Stress is an issue that humans deal with constantly and seems to be an issue that is growing more severe and affect a large population not just adults but children as well. I wonder if primates show the same side affects from stress as humans, how they deal with stress, and if multiple age ranges are affected.

 I know stress is something that affects a large population. Different situations make certain individuals more stressed out than others but there are some things that just cause stress in a lot of the human populations lives including money, status, safety, and success. Stress responses also vary amongst individuals. Some people stress eat, increased emotional responses, and depression. I think it would be interesting to see if any of these responses that are typical in humans are also observed in primates.

 I have decided to do a literature review because the issue of stress in primates is a wide topic and covers several different factors and ranges. For my paper I have decided to focus on three major questions: Which individuals in primate social groups suffer from the most stress, What factors lead to this stress, and does age play a role in stress and do primates expose to stress at a young age show signs in the future. I feel that these questions cover the issue of stress that is witnessed.


For my paper I have several sources that pertain to the topic of stress. A study done at Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology spent time studying female Barbary macaques. They recorded all incidents of social behavior including, agonistic behavior like threats, chases and slaps, submissive behavior like displacing, screaming, grimacing and hind quarter presentation and affiliate behavior such as teeth chatter, embracing and grooming. They then analyzed the levels of stress hormones in certain female macaques to see which individuals showed the most stress and after which type of behavior. Another study showed how babies grow up anxious and anti-social after the stress of separation form their mothers. The effects of these stressful situations plays a key role in their personality growing up and changes in the developing brain that occur causing them to be more anxious and less sociable. Finally a study was done by Indiana University which observed that wild orangutans that have come into contact with eco-tourists over a period of years show immediate stress response but no signs of chronic stress. Although the studies were done on different primate species I am looking more at the causes, effects, and impacts stress plays in primates lives compared to in one specific group.

(2013, Apr. 2 ). In Science Daily . Retrieved Month. Day, Year, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130402091143.htm

Chaplin, S.. (2012, Mar. 15 ). In Wild orangutans stressed by eco-tourists, but not for long, IU study out of north Borneo finds. Retrieved Month. Day, Year, from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/iu-wos031512.php

Pritchard, H.. (2011, Aug. 18 ). In BBC News. Retrieved Month. Day, Year, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14562120

Week 10: Zoo


Despite the cold weather and the gorillas not being able to come out until later in the day when it was warmer I enjoyed my day at the zoo. I guess it was kind of a blessing in disguise that it was too cold for the gorillas because it gave us more time to look at the other animals that were at the zoo that day. It was really fun to see the baboons, especially that one baboon that keeps all the rocks in her cheek. Also being able to see the chimps and lemurs was a plus. Over all we got to see a more wide range of the primates which is awesome!

The only zoo that I have been to is the Bronx Zoo and I went when I was extremely little so I don’t remember the experience that well. One thing I do remember as a kid though and still wonder is where do they keep the animals at night, especially the giraffes, they are so tall they must have a large enclose for them. But anyways, I am getting a little side tracked here. Seeing the gorillas in the enclosure was bitter sweet. I think you get these pictures in your head about what the gorillas are like in the wild rummaging through the thick brush, sitting and eating plants while grooming each other. But then, you see them at the zoo and it never really fully lives up to your expectations. Despite this aspect, being able to see the physical gorillas was amazing. There was never a dull moment, especially with two male juveniles around. Apollo and Bomassa were two balls of energy constantly wrestling with each other, bothering their mothers, playing with the burlap sacks, and sometimes even engaging with the observers.

There were certain behaviors that I noticed that stood out to me. One thing that I noticed was that Acatia, the smallest adult female without a child, spent a lot of time alone away from the other four. She would rest in a corner or sleep away from the group on the burlap sacks. We soon learned that Acatia had lost her baby earlier that year by accidentally rolling over it in her sleep. This more solitary behavior could be the result of sadness from no longer having a baby of her own. However, sometimes Jamani and Olympia would let Acatia play with Apollo and Bomassa when they were tired of playing with them. Another interesting behavior observed was how the gorillas interacted with the burlap sacks. While I was observing Jamani, she took two burlap sacks and laid them out on the ground for her and Bomassa to sleep on. The juveniles would also play with the burlap sacks putting them on their heads and waving them around. One of the gorilla keepers mentioned that the burlap sacks have become such a big part of the gorillas lives that when they get moved to different locations or zoos they are moved with their burlap sack.

Overall it was a great day at the zoo! After the end of it I am going to have to say that my favorite primate that I saw was the gorillas. They won me over. After watching them for that extended period of time you learn about their personalities. Apollo is the rambunctious one always wanting to play and wrestle. He is also quite the attention grabber and knows how to get people to watch him. I think it would be a lot of fun to go back to the zoo in a couple of years and see what the two juveniles are like.