Let’s begin with saying that monkeys have tails, apes do not.  This means the devastating news for many is that chimpanzees are not monkeys.  Yes, this may take some getting used to, but as a primate keeper I am obliged to insist you get this distinction so I can retain my sanity and not have to go ape shit if you call a chimp a monkey in front of me.  This is just a necessary disclaimer before we go any further together.  This is your only prerequisite for reading this blog.  Good, let’s begin.

I always knew I wanted to take care of animals.  I’ve known it since knowing was known in my little world.  Oddly enough I never had a fascination with Curious George.  What’s curious is that he is an amalgam of primates rather than an actual primate.  A literal translation of what most people view primates to be.  Throw in the size of a capuchin monkey, think the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, the face of a chimpanzee and the tail of a Monkey, again, a capuchin perhaps, and anthropomorphized enough to resemble humans.  Anthropomorphism is a big word zoo keepers and other animal professionals use to describe and avoid the curious tendency for humans to project upon non-human animals human traits, thoughts and emotions. Curious George is an exact replica of what most people think of primates.  You are all disturbingly mislead as to what a primate actually is.  If you are reading this text, you’re a primate.  I’m not making that up to be clever.  In the animal kingdom, we’re primates.  Based on the taxanomic system of categorizing animals in such a way that animals with biological similarities are categorized from broad to specific traits from Kingdom, which includes all animals, to species which are so similar they can actually breed with one another.  Humans share enough distinguishing characteristics to be categorized in the order of primates.  Unless it’s happening in some Chinese test tube, humans and chimps cannot reproduce together so relax, I’m not calling you a chimpanzee.  I’m not even saying we descended from chimpanzees.  Sure, we had a common ancestor six million years ago, but they went their way and we went our way.  I think God must have had pity on the chimpanzee.  But back to Curious George, the curious primate, we are conditioned from a young age to lump all primates together.  It’s understandable, there are a lot of us.  We go to the zoo and there are gorillas-huge, 300 lb silverback males and there are tiny pygmy marmosets that weigh less than a pound.  True story, there are monkeys that small.  We come away from the zoo so overwhelmed by the fascination of so many primates that we can hardly be expected to retain in sharp relief every species we were enamored with.  But go to the zoo more than once a year on a field trip with your kids and do more than the cursory glance and requisite giggle at their antics.  Watch them for half an hour.  Really look at their behavior and you will start to see Curious George unravel.

I have been fortunate enough to work with many species of primates and many other animals as a zookeeper over the years.  My career took me towards specializing in primates, but many other animals along the way have lent to my experiences and the impending stories you will read here.  There’s a little something for everyone, so come on in and have a listen while I zoo and tell.

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