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Here are profiles of some of the primates seen in the NATURE program MONKEY IN THE MIRROR.


Gorillas build new sleep nests each night.

While they are feared for their enormous size, gorillas are generally harmless, using threatening gestures like chest-beating to head off conflicts and attacking only when provoked. Despite their fearsome appearance, they're also vegetarians, eating thistles, nettles, celery, and berries that they find in the surrounding forest. Each night, wherever they find themselves when darkness falls, they build new nests in which to sleep.

Of Asian rather than African origin, orangutans are the only great apes to live in trees. There is a debate over the existence of subspecies, but isolated orangutan groups exist on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, where they are severely endangered.

The common chimp and the bonobo, a species of pygmy chimpanzee, are two subspecies of chimpanzees seen on NATURE. Bonobos are tall and thin, with some of the least aggressive social behaviors in the animal kingdom. Unlike gorillas, chimps will hunt small animals, but they mainly subsist on leaves and other vegetation. These apes are considered our closest relatives, with mental abilities that rival those of a young human child.

Chimps in the Ivory Coast use rocks to crack open nuts.

Chimpanzees are considered our closest relatives.

Chimpanzees, who share 98 percent of our genetic material, have developed some sophisticated behaviors. Some chimps practice herbal healing, instinctively eating certain plants with medicinal properties; others use tools like sticks to dig for food. The chimps of Africa's Ivory Coast bang nuts against rocks to smash them open, then pry out the nutmeats.

The aye-aye, a tiny, odd-looking primate, may not have the intelligence of some of its relatives, but it has evolved other interesting features: one of its fingers is especially long and narrow, a built-in tool for eating more efficiently. A nocturnal hunter native to the island of Madagascar, the aye-aye searches for beetle larvae nestled inside tree branches by tapping on the outer bark and listening for hollow spots. When it locates larvae, the aye-aye thrusts its long finger into the tunnel to dig out its food. This method also works well on the pulpy insides of coconuts, mangoes, and sugar cane.


Baboons live throughout East and North Africa.

While many baboon species live on open grasslands, some inhabit rocky, mountainous terrain, like the Hamadryas baboon of Egypt and Sudan. More earthbound than some of the other primates, baboons remain on the ground during the day, heading into the trees only to sleep at night. Baboons live in troops containing anywhere from 8 to 200 monkeys, each with its own social structure. When males threaten each other over females or territory, they show and audibly grind their teeth.

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