Primates changed my life
I never thought that primates were what I wanted to study and focus my education on. I had always had a soft spot for the big predators; lions, wolves, hyaenas. Monkeys were cute but I wanted to learn more about other animals. That was until I was in Tanzania, spending the semester there during the fall of my third year in undergrad.
We had to do our own research project for two weeks. After spending our first week at a small game reserve I fell in love with the cheeky, brave and adorable vervet monkeys that would always try our steal our food. Seeing them out during our game drives I was intrigued by their relationships and how they would reconcile by grooming each other after a fight. So I decided to study these monkeys for my project.
I went in not really knowing what I was doing. I had to figure out what behaviours to study, how to get the monkeys to feel safe with me and not run away (that’s a whole other story), how to deal with the loneliness of being in the field by myself for 3 weeks and learning how to be a scientist on the fly. As scary and intimidating it all was it pushed me and made me grow.
Through all the ups and downs there is a moment that is seared in my memory. It was at the end of the day, around 5pm, I was finishing up my observations for the day and just enjoying the quiet of the savannah as the sun was starting to get low in the sky and the vervet’s were getting ready to sleep for the night in a large fig tree. I was sitting underneath this fig tree, all around me were vervet monkeys climbing up and playing in the tree, figs dropping all around me. It was that moment I knew that this is what I was meant to do, study and connect with our monkey relatives. I have rarely had that kind of certainty and clarity before or since.
Since that time in Tanzania I have traveled to Kenya to study baboons, to Rwanda to spend an hour with the mountain gorillas and trek chimpanzees in the rainforest. Each experience helping my passion grow for this amazing group of animals. We can learn so much about ourselves from primates. Having evolved from a common ancestor, we share many genes and can understand the root of many of our behaviours by studying theirs.
Even though the path since then has been complex, primates have been the cornerstone of my life decisions. That is why I started Primate Tales, so I can pass on that love and passion for primates and hopefully inspire students in Toronto and the GTA to look into this amazing and important field of science.
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