Postcards from Winter Camp: Playing with the Primates

Posted at 9:35 am December 30, 2005 by Lisa Townsend

 Debrazza's guenon Our curriculum today was packed with primates. We spent most of our time in camp just monkeying around. Our day began with a visit from Tipu the tamandua (lesser anteater). Of course an anteater is not a monkey but tamanduas do have some new-world monkey-like adaptations: prehensile tail, strong arms, waterproof coat. Tipu climbed all over his climbing structure looking for honey. He was so calm, cool, and collected he even let all 58 campers give him a pat.

Although today’s theme was primates we do not have the ability to visit with lemurs, monkeys, or apes without some security protocols. The San Diego Zoo has primate protocols that are followed by keepers and visitors alike. Primates can be aggressive and unpredictable so there is no touching allowed for everyone’s health and safety.

Later in the morning we visited Keeper Connie at the primate holding pad. We had a chance to meet all kinds of monkeys that were off exhibit for different reasons. For example, Opal the drill requires close attention in managing her insulin-dependent diabetes. We also met some Allen’s swamp monkeys slowly getting to know one another before moving into the Zoo’s Ituri Forest. Since quite a few of us campers (and staff) have the sniffles, we all got souvenir facemasks to wear during our visit. We even decorated our masks like spot-nosed and mustached guenons.

After lunch we swung by the Zoo’s Primate Propagation Center (PPC) and Keeper Dave gave us a tour. We met Sprite the Debrazza’s guenon (like the one pictured above) and some new friends of hers across the hall. We also got to see (and hear) lemurs and some very excited marmosets. While standing outside of the marmoset building we could hear them calling to each other announcing our arrival (they don’t see many groups of campers).

Once we returned to the Zoo’s Otto Center we participated in a favorite primate pastime: PLAY! We held the potato Olympic games and we celebrated our humor, coordination, and those ever-valuable opposible thumbs.

Lisa Townsend is an educator at the San Diego Zoo.

Children in grades K to 5 can register for Spring Camp!

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