Study taxonomy, behaviour, biology and management of primates in the wild or captivity.

Course Code: BEN210
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn about Lemurs, Monkeys, Apes and other Primate Animals 
  • Explore the biodiversity of these animals
  • Identify different species of primates
  • Discover how these animals function, how to care for them in captivity, their anatomy and physiology, and much more
Commence your study whenever you wish; studying from wherever you wish, and at your own pace.
Be guided by highly qualified, zoologists who have years of experience with reptiles and amphibians.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Primates
  2. Strepsirhines -Lemures, Lorises and related animals
  3. Haplorhines -Tasiers and Simian Primates including Apes and Monkeys
  4. The Diet and Nutrition of Primate Animals
  5. Health and Physical Condition
  6. Behaviour of Primates in the Wild
  7. Behaviour of Primates in Captivity
  8. Breeding and Reproduction in Primates
  9. Primate Management in Captivity
  10. Conservation of Primate Animals


  • Discuss the system of identifying different types of primate animals
  • Describe, in a broad sense, the biology and management of primates.
  • Discuss the nature and scope of our knowledge of primate animals.
  • Describe different species from the suborder Strepsirhini.
  • Describe different species from the suborder Haplorhini.
  • Explain what different primates eat.
  • Explain how to manage the physical wellbeing of primates.
  • Explain the psychology and behaviour of primates.
  • Explain the management of the psychological wellbeing of primates in captivity.
  • Explain breeding programmes for managing the conservation of primates.
  • Explain conservation of a range of different primates.
  • Explain how to manage primates in captivity.

What Do Primates Eat?

The dietary habits of wild primates vary according to specific food preferences and also in response to the availability of foods in their natural habitat. Where foods are readily available most primates will limit their diet to a small number of foods. For example an orangutan will choose to eat fruit for the majority of the time but will eat tree bark and leaves where fruit is in short supply.
The diets of primates fall into different categories, here we shall consider them in terms of 5 categories: folivorous, faunivorous, insectivorous, omnivorous and frugivorous.
Folivores are herbivores which specialise in eating leaves. Folivorous primates tend to be large and slow moving. Folivores must consume large quantities of leaves as they are a poor source of nutrition. Leaves are also difficult to digest and require the development of a more complex digestive system and specialised dentition (teeth). Examples of folivorous primates include gorillas and chimpanzees.
Faunivores are primates which eat other animals. This category includes insectivores where the diet consists primarily (or exclusively) of insects, carnivores which eat other animals and omnivores which consume a diet containing plants, meat and fruit.
Insectivores specialise in eating insects. Insectivorous primates tend to be smaller than other primates e.g. tarsiers are almost exclusively insectivorous and are the smallest of all primates. The small size of an insectivorous primate is related to the fact that a larger primate would need to eat an excessive quantity of insects in order to meet their daily energy and nutrient requirements. Insects are relatively easy to digest once ingested so the gastrointestinal system can be relatively simple. Teeth meanwhile tend to become more specialised to allow a primate to break into the tough exoskeleton of an insect. Many insectivores also have long nimble fingers to allow them to trap and pick up insects.
Most primates are omnivores consuming a mixed diet of plant and animal matter. Omnivorous primates include marmosets which, in their natural habitat, consume a wide variety of foods including plant gums, fruit, insects and small animals such as spiders and snails.
Frugivores specialise in eating fruit, eating the pulp of fruit but not the seeds. Some frugivores have cheek pouches to hold excess fruit. Fruits themselves are relatively easy to digest so the digestive system can be less specialised. Examples of frugivores include orangutans and owl monkeys.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability.
Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop

Peter Douglas

Over 50 years experience in Agriculture and wildlife management.
Former university lecturer, Wildlife park manager, Animal breeder, Equestrian.
Peter has both wide ranging experience in animal science, farming and tourism management, and continues to ap

Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand

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