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The DO’s and DONT’S of an aspiring Monkey Whisperer /in training

DONT: Forget that no matter how “cute/cuddly/nice/familiar etc the monkey before you is(rookie mistake. all been there) -any primate is classified as a “WILD ANIMAL” ,even if it was born and bred in captivity. I know it’s hard and no matter how tempting it is to “pet the cute little fluffy Capuchin” one word- NO.

DO:Approach a primate (no matter their size, breed or level of domestication) with the same caution as you would approach a lion. 

DO:Start with familiarizing yourself with the given primate(s) .especially in a family or “clan”.  One of your main goals is to identify the Alpha male, the alpha female and the lesser soldiers. This is very important, because monkeys are hardcore about their hierarchy. especially during FEEDING TIME.

Which leads me to a major DONT:

DO NOT, EVER, AND I MEAN IN ALL SERIOUSNESS , EVER just “throw” a treat in to a cage with monkeys.THERE WILL BE BLOOD ,and I’m  not being overdramatic. Primates have a strict code of cafeteria conduct , where the alpha male gets his first help of the food, and THAT IS LAW. Even the alpha female knows better than to cut the line, as she will get reprimanded for this type of monkeybuisness subordination . and the alpha can eat ALOT (sometimes taking a good share out of the food). Although this can sometimes be frustrating, as you would like to spread the love(read treats), remember: FATHER EATS FIRST.  I have witnessed my share of monkey fights over this display of subordination. (This goes for all members of the clan, even the young, although in certain situations, a father monkey will look over the fact that his offspring 

DO: Always give your treat in the following manner:

Approach the cage in a calm and quiet fashion. No sudden movements. Better if you already have the treat in your hand,as rustling in your pockets/bag may lead to the primates going in to High alert mode. They dont know what your intentions are, and for them, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

2. No sticking your hand in the cage! Hold out you palm but make sure the monkey reaches out of the cage itself. a) The cage is their territory, and primates are never keen on sudden intruders.b) This will lessen the possibility of being bitten (unless you get your hand pulled in) .

Or , for instance, if you are holding a carrot or a big treat, extend it so that the primate takes it by the other end and that way no hand to hand contact is present. (Still at a safe distance, if in case the primate decides to take a swipe at your wrist

DO: Be very careful upon approaching a female with her young. For obvious reasons.(Very protecting of their young)


DO:If you’re a vet, and need to administer a medicine orally, and the monkey just won’t comply, a trick used is to pull its ear back (gently) and insert the syringe (without the needle) in to its mouth. For some odd reasons, this works.

DONT: Think a monkey “yawns”. No. This is a  visual display of aggression, especially with the baboons and macaques. This is usually accompanied by a quick lowering of the eyelids.

DO:KNOW THE SIGNS OF AGGRESSION. Which may include “yawning” , curling of the lip (basically all teeth baring are bearers of bad signs)

Also, clucks and clicks. Now , this may range in between species. Ive been studying the “monkey language” and an observation of mine was the “clucking” or grinding of the jaws of African green monkeys.

To be continued…


Anna Artsibasheva


Northern pigtail macaque. (Alpha male)

Northern pigtail macaque. (Alpha male)

In the pressence of this magnificent primate.

Note: If you happen to also find yourself in such company, know, these primates, like baboons, don’t “yawn”. That is a display of aggresion (which can be observed through a wide range of primates) . This means that this monkey isn’t tired- but in fact, you are not welcome- LEAVE.

Another amazing moment captured.

Another amazing moment captured.

I find it so amazing to observe how mother primates conduct themselves with their young. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But pictures like this are worth a thousand emotions.

Baby macaque is adorable. :))

Baby macaque is adorable. :))

Feeding time.

Hamadryas baboon mama and baby.

Hamadryas baboon mama and baby.

I had the best summer internship, where I had the extreme pleasure of working in the Research Institute of Medical Primatology Veterinary Clinic. I also studied the behavioral aspects of primates in captivity (and took some pretty awesome photos)