2 Nov 2020

From Orangutans to Gorillas, the Wonderful, Wild World of Primatology


When Dr Zanna was young, she knew she wanted to pursue a career with animals, but she didn’t know the specifics. So, at university, she studied zoology and psychology. This grew her love for animals but didn’t help her choose a career. Then, to decide on a specific career she volunteered across the world with animals including meerkats and lemurs. This gave her the clarity she needed and she went on to be a PhD student in Bonobo communication.

She says the key to a good career is to “be passionate about what you do and find experience where you can“.

orangutan gif | Stemettes Zine

A special link can be found between humans and other great apes due to our evolutionary story. Around 15 million years ago we shared an ancestor with gorillas and orangutans and today, our closest ancestors are bonobos and chimps. Even though we separated 7 million years ago, we will always have a close and special relationship with these animals.

evolution gif | Stemettes Zine

It is known that the great apes are exceptionally intelligent. For example, they have excellent communication, tool use, and problem-solving skills. Despite this, all of the great apes are faced by threats. Orangutans are threatened by deforestation due to palm oil usage, chimps and bonobos are threatened by the illegal pet trade, and gorillas are threatened by poaching, but the more we know, the more we can do to help. That’s what makes jobs such as Dr Zanna Grays so important.

This article is a summary of the Outbox 2020 session run by The Linnean Society. You can find out more about The Linnean Society here >>

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