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How to tell who’s who?

Hello everyone and Happy Holidays! My name is Caroline and I am one of the newest members of the Primate Team at Zoo Atlanta. I started as a Primate Department intern at Zoo Atlanta during the summer of 2019, in the Small African Primate area with the monkeys, lemurs, and sloths (which are neither primates nor African, but which fall under the care of this department). This was a wonderful experience and taught me so much about what it takes to be a good animal care professional. This internship also firmly cemented in my mind that I wanted to work with primates, more specifically monkeys, after also previously having done an internship with marine mammals. I was sad to leave at the end of last summer to finish my college career but was very excited to return to my job training capuchin monkeys at school. Here I was involved in observational and behavioral research. I was overjoyed to come back this summer after being offered a seasonal keeper position in the Primate Department and then a few months later, a full-time keeper position specifically working in the Small African Primate area.   

My favorite thing about coming back was being able to see both all the wonderful primate keepers and all the animals again. I was extremely relieved coming back nine months after my internship had ended and still being able to identify our eight lemurs, four golden lion tamarins, and two Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths.  We generally get lots of questions on if and how we can tell each animal apart.  I thought I would share some of the characteristics that I look for.

The easiest group to identify is our crowned lemur family group. This is because crowned lemurs are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females look different. Sava, our only female, is grey with an orange crown, while her partner Xonsu and son Chewie are brown with an orange crown. Xonsu and Chewie are a little bit trickier to tell apart, but Xonsu has a wider face than his son Chewie, who has a much more narrow face.  

Next we have our black-and-white-ruffed lemur group, which consists of Ian and his daughters Luna and Malaky. Ian is the largest lemur at Zoo Atlanta and has a wider face than both of his daughters. The easiest way to tell his daughters apart are by their eye colors: Luna has yellow eyes, while Malaky’s eyes are much more orange.  

Our final two lemurs are our two ringtailed lemurs, Julius and Neal. There are two ways to tell these two apart; the first is that Julius has a shorter tail than Neal. The second is that Neal has a large grey widow’s peak between his eyes while Julius does not. 

The golden lion tamarins can be a little bit trickier to tell apart at the beginning because they are so small and sometimes look extremely similar.  Our first pair, Eva and Harley, are easier to tell apart because Harley has black hair framing his face and on his tail, while Eva only has golden hair which is more commonly seen with our golden lion tamarins here at the Zoo. Our second pair, Blixx and Tiete, are a little harder because they are both all golden, typical for golden lion tamarins. However, the best way to tell them apart is that Blixx has a small kink at the end of her tail, while Tiete’s tail is completely straight.  

Finally, we arrive at our two female Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths, Bonnie and Nutella. Now these two are extremely hard to tell apart from far away. One of the best ways to tell them apart from a distance is that Nutella is larger than Bonnie, even though she is considerably younger. From up close, the best way to tell them apart, however is by their noses: Bonnie’s nostrils are smaller than Nutella’s.

It takes a good eye and some patience to ID animals, so next time you are at the Zoo you should make a fun game out of it with those in your party and see how many you can ID! You may even see other characteristics that we may not see.  Have fun!

Caroline S.
Keeper I, Primates

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