From Phillip who’s set in his ways, to Sekara the helicopter mum, get to know the primates better this International Primate Day, from the people that know them best, their zoo keepers! 

From the 90kg Sumatran Orangutan to the pint-sized Pygmy Marmoset, we love all primates – big and small!
As some of our closest living relatives, primate species are renowned for being intelligent problem-solvers who are full of personality. 

And as many of the zoo keepers have worked with these primates for years – even decades! – they’ve got a story or two to tell about some of your favourites. 

To celebrate International Primate Day, we asked them to share some of their best moments on the job. 
Keeper Sam Hay has worked at Perth Zoo for 15 years and has formed a special bond with Sumatran Orangutan, Sekara. 

“Watching Sekara become a mum was amazing. I often joke that we have similar parenting styles – we’re both helicopter mums, so I really relate to her. In general, Sekara is super smart and in tune. After all these years I can tell when she’s working with me and when she’s really not in the mood for training – and that’s okay. It’s always her choice.”

For Keeper Teagan Behrns, it’s all about the White-cheeked Gibbons. 

“They’re just so unique and they all have their own personalities. Phillip is our oldest gibbon and he’s just hilarious. He has a routine, kinda set in his ways and he’s known for taking himself off to his little man cave.”

The Golden Lion Tamarins are currently chilling in the peace and quiet behind the scenes in the hopes the pair will breed. During this time, Keeper Alex Miller is monitoring them closely via CCTV to see if sparks will fly.

“Obviously, their behaviour changes when we’re around them, so by monitoring them remotely, we’re able to get a much better understanding of their behaviours and habits. It’s like we become a part of their secret world. Golden Lion Tamarins are endangered in the wild. We’re all crossing our fingers that Ros and Lyra will breed because it will be a big step forward for conservation.” 

Keeper Olivia Paris says she can’t stop smiling when she’s around the Bolivian Squirrel Monkeys.
“They are just like sunshine in a monkey. You can’t go visit them without feeling even happier afterwards. They make my day, every day.

“Getting to see a species that I love so much have babies and become mums is incredible. They’ll do this really cool thing called ‘auntying’ where they pick their best friend, and their bestie will get to carry the baby and be involved with raising it. It’s pretty amazing.”

Keeper Leah Haslam says keeping up with the primates isn’t easy, but it’s the most rewarding thing she’s ever done.

“I love the primates that challenge you, like the baboons or Phillip, the gibbon. They are so intelligent, they keep you on your game and you learn so much from them. Seeing personalities change in different situations is very interesting and I love that!”

Celebrate International Primate Day with a visit to your favourite animals!