One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

Primate Observation at Gulf Breeze Zoo

on February 17, 2013

DSCN4934Yesterday my undergrad assistant and myself adventured to the local Gulf Breeze zoo so I could do my primate observation on gorillas. Gulf Breeze Zoo is a small zoo compared to the ones that I have been used to going to such as the National Zoo in DC, Bronx, and Atlanta. It is a little sketchy but it seems to be a good little facility to families with young children because there are not an abundance of animals and some of the animals are able to be fed by visitors. One thing that caught myself and Kevin off guard were the various animals that you would normally see every day, were there such as the raccoon. And by the bear exhibit, there was a display on comparing the skulls of primates and humans, odd place to have a primate skull display.

Although the zoo does have gorillas, we found that it is impossible to see them from the observation deck that say you can observe them from there or you would have to take a train that doesn’t stop to see them. So regrettably I was not able to do my primate observation project. However we did visit the various other primates that were in the zoo as well as listening to visitors refer to the chimpanzees as monkeys.

DSCN4914 We were able to observe the chimpanzees from the observation deck. There was only two individuals. One of them sat by the water’s edge and was interacting with us by making noises and signing to us, including blowing kisses, peek-a-boo hands, and being hungry gestures. It was disappointing to not be able to view and observe the gorillas (which is my favorite primate).

As a cultural anthropologist, I have a tendency to watch the visitors interact with the primates. The most common thing I found was visitors mistakenly calling apes monkeys and monkeys apes, as well as trying to get their children to interact with the animals. Either by feeding, making noises, or by acting in away to attract the animal towards the child. Parents want their children to be aware of the animals, but most want to entertain their children with the presence of animals.

The day was actually really chilly and windy which would make it hard to do any recording of the observations that I would be doing. DSCN4929In the absence of the gorillas, we were able to visit and observe some of the other primates that were there. Many of which were in cages which made it easier to watch and see the animals. Unlike the chimpanzees and gorillas that were free roaming within their habitat enclosure.

Other primates that we were able to visit included lemurs, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, gibbons, common marmoset, lion tamerion, and red tailed mustache guenon, and there were a few others that I can’t remember. It is one thing to learn in class about the various species but it is another to see the primates in person. If it wasn’t for this class, I wouldn’t have known the differences between most of the primates. Many of the primates were very active during the time that we were there, so it made observing them easier. The spider monkey that we did observe was watching a family have a snack and was sticking it’s hand out in hopes to get some food, as well as chattering to be heard.


In many of the enclosures there were not many individuals except for the squirrel monkeys that had about 12-15 individuals. Most only had 1-5 individuals. The squirrel monkeys were very active in chasing, playing, and eating during time of our observation.

Overall, the day was fun observing and visiting the various animals at this zoo. It was disappointing to not be able to observe the gorillas which was the goal of the trip. But I think we got some good information, practicing our observation skills, and testing our knowledge of primates from what we have learned in class.

I will have to figure out an alternative to observe the gorillas, perhaps going to another zoo where it won’t be an obstacle to visit and observe the gorillas.



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