First off, you couldn’t have asked for a better day to go to the Greensboro Science Center. The temperature was perfect, neither too hot nor too cold. There was a slight breeze off and on throughout the visit, and the sun was shining; no problems that would keep the primates from being in their exhibits. The GSC is home to three Javan Gibbons (an adult male, and adult female, and an infant), five howler monkeys (two adult males and three females, I believe) and eight lemurs (five ring-tailed, two mongoose, and one red-ruffed). Of all of the primates, the three gibbons had the largest enclosure while the howlers had the smallest. The howlers’ exhibit was very small, which I normally would have questioned as being too small. However, upon seeing how they spent most of their time laying on the branches or inside of a specially provided sling, I decided it probably wasn’t too small.
The enclosures were comprised of chain-link fences with a tall pole in the center. A net was suspended from the top of the pole and draped over the fences to prevent the animals fro escaping. The gibbons’ enclosure also had a large piece of black fabric covering a sizable portion of the netting, presumably to act as shade from the sun (there wasn’t really a place for the animals to hide from the sun otherwise).
Each enclosure was unique for the animals within. The gibbons had large pieces of rope hanging from the netting and poles and had other options so as to brachiate, their natural form of locomotion. The howlers had a large “tree” in the center of their enclosure, which they seemed to enjoy while lazing about. Also within their enclosure was a small sling that was used by one of the males, sort of like a hammock. The lemurs enjoyed a large rock face, where the mongoose lemurs were curled up. There were several logs as well, a long with a circular structure on a pole covered in straw that acted as shade. A tube of corrugated plastic hung from a support structure, and at least one lemur was inside the plastic during the duration of our view.
The behaviors of the primates all seemed to be similar to what we have talked about over the semester. For the most part, the animals either ate or rested, with the only real exception being the infant gibbon that seemed to like playing with its parents. We did see some grooming with the ring-tailed lemurs but this interaction didn’t last long; it was interrupted when the red-ruffed decided to walk up towards the grooming pair.
I think in terms of education, these kinds of enclosures (which were filled with enrichment for all of the primates) allows the public to see the animals in a closer to realistic setting (excluding the fact that much of the enrichment was manmade). By this I mean that the animals were more likely to engage in (hopefully) realistic behaviors, such as brachiation for the gibbons or grooming and sleeping for the lemurs and howlers. I also believe that these kinds of enclosures are less depressing than other enclosures, such as ones where the area above the animals’ heads are not open to the sky.