Saturday, August 29, 2009

Monkey madness

Had to go to the zoo today for our Masters class as our lecturer wanted us to do ethograms (basically observation charts) on primate behaviour. So we were divided into three groups and spent the morning studying either proboscis monkeys, chimps or hamadryas baboons. My team opted for the baboons, which turned out to be quite a headache as there were about 70 of them running all over in the enclosure. One part of the exercise involved us scanning the entire enclosure to count how many of them were doing a particular activity (like resting, feeding, grooming etc), at 15 second intervals, while another involved us tracking the activities of just one individual for a period of time, which was difficult as sometimes the individual would run off and you would have to chase the baboon around to keep it in sight.

It was quite interesting though, to have the opportunity to just stand there and observe the animals for an extended period of time, compared to the cursory glance that we usually take when we visit enclosures on a normal trip. All in all, we concluded the males had a good life as they would be groomed by the females and just only concentrated on feeding (and also making sure their females didn't run off to join another harem). The mothers would actually hold on to the tails of their young to make sure that they didn't wander too far, and we found out that the baboons had cheek pouches for storing food, just like hamsters! Altogether, it was a pretty good field trip, and I'm looking forward to baby J getting older, then we can bring him along on zoo trips as well!

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