For our final field trip, Dr. Rodrigues took some of us to the Greesnboro Science Center in Greensboro, NC. Although it is not a huge zoo, they do have Javan Gibbons, Ring-tailed Lemurs, Red Ruffed Lemurs, and Black Howler Monkeys. The zoo, overall, did not seem to have a lot of educational or conservation information at each exhibit, and some other species did not have any species-specific information at all. Although it is a science center which theoretically encourages learning, I think that the Animal Discovery zoo seemed to be more about visitors enjoying seeing the animals rather than learning a lot about them (even scientifically).
The lemur habitat, which had both types of lemurs in the same enclosure, was fairly small for the number of lemurs there (maybe about a dozen?). We noticed one lemur that was missing an arm, which Dr. Rodrigues said may be because he got an arm stuck in the surrounding chain link fence. If this is true, they should absolutely reconsider the setup of their enclosures in order to ensure the health and safety of their lemurs who do a lot of leaping, climbing, and other acrobatics which could cause them to get their limbs caught. They did not seem to have a lot of room, but the group seemed appropriately sized for this species. I noticed some lemurs displaying dominance to others, but not being particularly overaggressive. They had a lot of different enrichment objects in their enclosure, including logs, branches, plants, rocks, hanging hammocks and pipes to jump to, and other little perches in the rocks and at the top of branches. I did like that the lemurs had a lot to interact with and that the zoo showed more than one species of lemur, since most people are mostly/only familiar with the ring-tailed lemur.
The howler monkeys also had a pretty small environment, although there were fewer individuals (about 6). They could have benefited from having a taller enclosure as howlers tend to stay high up in the trees. I remember Dr. Rodrigues noting how odd it was to see Howlers walking around on the ground and picking grass. She also seemed to think that they were being unusually active for the species, which usually are much more lazy. They had branches and a tree-like structure, as well as a hammock and ropes strung around the top of the exhibit. One female howler in particular was trying to escape, coming close to the windows so we could see her up close.
My favorite of the day were the Javan Gibbons, who are one of the rarest species of gibbon in the world. This is why it is especially cool that they were able to have a baby born in captivity in 2013 (one of only 2 babies ever born in captivity!). They had a fairly tall exhibit with some tree-like structures with branches and toys for them to swing on and interact with. They also had a small blanket for the baby, who carried it around with him and wrapped around his body. They probably would like more space, but they had a lot of room relative to all of the other primates we saw. Their group was only the two parents and the baby, small for a gibbon group but considering this species is rare and they were able to produce offspring, I would say they are making a decent effort.
One behavior that I thought was interesting was that the mother initially rejected the baby, forcing zoo staff to save and raise the baby by hand until he was old enough to be reintroduced to his parents. I was curious as to whether this is something that tends to happen more in captivity than in the wild, and whether this would be species-typical or stereotyped behavior. I wonder whether this was somehow made more likely to occur in captivity because of something in this environment. In the wild, the infant could not have fended for itself after being abandoned. In captivity, zoo staff made the quick decision to hand-rear the baby and to try to reintroduce him later in order to save the species. Now, Executive Directior Glenn Dobrogosz calls the successfully raised baby gibbon the “rockstar for promoting species conservation, showcasing the quality” of their animal care team. I think the gibbons have raised a lot of awareness and having such a rare species definitely helps with conservation.