Monkeys at the zoo
On Saturday morning Russ and I went to Central Park zoo to observe snow monkeys (macaca fuscata or Japanese snow monkey) using the methods described to us by Tom Igoe and Tony di Fiore from the Anthro department. It was very cold. The macaques seemed cold too, huddled together. Every once in a while there would be a disturbance and the troupe would bound around. [Clicks for pics ]
The assignment was to observe the monkeys and record their behavior using three different methods, which were described in class as well as the reading from last week (Measuring Behavior, Paul Martin & Patrick Bateson). The first method is called an ethogram, lit. behavior writing. Record all observable behaviors in two categories: 1) events, which are bouts of behavior that happen in a short period of time (Tony demonstrated by slapping Tom– well, not really), or defecating; 2) states, which are durational and can be comprised of many events, such as sleeping, eating, grooming, watching, sitting, etc. Record the frequency or rate of events per unit of time.Create acronyms and codes for each observable state or event to optimize the other methods of observation.
The second method of observation is to focus on an individual in the group, paying no attention to the others unless they interact with the individual you’re watching. Record the observable behaviors (states, events) that your subject engages in. In 2 minute intervals, record what they do to another individual, record what is done to them by another individual.
The third method is to scan the entire observable group and record the behaviors in five minute intervals. Record events more than states because states are likely to be missed.
Here is a spreadsheet that outlines what I recorded. It was so cold outside that the spreadsheet is incomplete for the assignment.
Even though, “Snow monkeys can make more than 30 vocalizations and a wide range of facial and body expressions” (CPZ website), we only observed a few eventful facial expression changes besides curiosity, neutral, and concentration. One of the facial expressions that stood out occurred right before a small tiff between one of the mothers and the “old lady”. The mother had a young monkey with her most of the time. The young monkey ventured off and seemed to grab the old lady monkeys head and ‘kiss’ her on the lips; the old lady monkey bared her teeth and screamed at the young monkey, causing the mother to come. The second incident happened as I was leaving. One of the young monkeys did not want to be groomed by the mother anymore and squirmed away. The mother sent him off with a spank on the rump and a grimace. The male was mostly hunched over by a rock, sometimes venturing down the rock archipelago to mess around with stuff by the water. The old lady monkey was the only one who ‘foraged’ among the wood splints laying around. One monkey ate some moss. None of the monkeys went in the hot tub or the water.
Visiting the zoo made me at once nostalgic and angry. The Central Park Zoo is not a great place for animals (is any zoo??? Well, at least the Bronx Zoo has a Serengeti-like plain for some to wander around on). I don’t think the future of animals is so bright. The Snow Leopards were sad. For some reason they were separated and one of them was crying and pacing. The other one was just pacing, but on the opposite end of the cage from the other one. Mating season? Gus the polar bear was looking worse for wear, and licking his paw.