Sunday, February 10, 2013

Primate Observation Gets Interesting

Was it The Kinks who sang about lazing on a sunny afternoon? For some reason, I’ve got that song stuck in my head. Whoever sang it, we are definitely not lazing about over here. Friday was my day off so I visited a local mall and then spent the afternoon by the pool. This mall was very different to the one I’d visited earlier in the week; this was all black. Race and segregation are still very complicated in South Africa. There may not be legal segregation, but there is most definitely social and economic segregation.

It was back to work yesterday with the day being spent adding shade netting to an enclosure. Oma has finally been removed from the Sussie/Spartacus situation. Sussie and Spartacus are two rhesus macaques who’ve spent their entire lives in zoos and have always been together. Sue was warned of Spartacus’ dominant behavior when they arrived from a zoo in Cape Town. He has apparently injured Sussie multiple times in the past. Things reached a head when Oma was introduced into the neighboring cage. Spartacus became very enamored of her, to the point of attacking Sussie twice, creating large gashes on her legs. From that point on, the trio was under constant observation and finally the decision was made to separate them all. Oma has been moved to an enclosure by the spider monkeys (where she promptly attempted to strangle one). Meanwhile, Sussie and Spartacus are now in separate enclosures, with an empty one between them. Spartacus spent yesterday staring at where Oma used to sit and completely ignoring Sussie, while Sussie spent the day gazing longingly at her former love. Macaque emotions are clearly complicated.

In the evening, we had a braai (barbecue) for all the volunteers. Good food and good conversation well into the night.

This morning, I’ve been making enrichment toys for Sussie, Spartacus, and Oma to encourage their foraging skills. Sussie was like a kid on Christmas morning with hers. The other two are still mourning their lost love.

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