Zookeeper Nick Burnham from ZSL London Zoo’s Primate team gives us the inside scoop on some of our closest relatives, and tells us who his favourite animal is...
How do we tell our monkeys from our apes?
As a rule of thumb, if primates have tails they’re usually monkeys. If you can’t see a tail they’re normally apes – like us!
When's best to spot primates at London Zoo?
Come rain or shine, you will nearly always see our father and son duo, northern white-cheeked gibbons Jimmy and Yoda, swinging about their home. They love to be outside (which can make it hard for us to clean their outdoor areas)! So even if it’s pouring with rain Jimmy will be sitting on a branch, quite contently, refusing to take cover.
The gorillas are best to catch when the Zoo opens or at lunch time. At 10am we go into the back dens to give everything a clean – so they’re always out and about. At 1:30pm they’ll normally have a feed of pulses and leaves on the island so it’s a good time to spot them foraging.
Unless it’s pouring, you can guarantee the squirrel monkeys will be dashing around their walkthrough, up to their mischievous ways as always!
Does anyone have any odd habits?
Primates are so interesting because they’re a lot like us. They all have little traits, and the longer you spend with them the more you understand them. Mangabeys smack their lips to communicate, and Hanuman langurs are incredibly agile gymnasts. Kamala, the youngster of the group, will watch as Lucy does backflips for her and then try herself. You can see her copying and trying to learn. It’s quite amazing to watch.
Do you have a favourite?
You’re probably not meant to have a favourite but I think everybody does. I absolutely love Jimmy the gibbon, he’s a lot of fun because he’s so energetic and he really engages with people. You’ll hear him singing in the morning. Gibbons tend to sing in duets so Jimmy will start and Yoda, his son, will respond. Jimmy also likes to sing at the dogs in Regent’s Park, which I think is brilliant. They have no idea what’s happening but they bark along.
Select a blog
Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.
At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.
Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!
We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.
From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.
Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.
Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.
ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.
An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.