Zoo Report – Chimpanzees

Class: Anthropology 301 Lab
Assignment: Zoo Report
Date: April 11, 2015


The species I chose for my focal species is the Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). The suborder of this species is Haplorrhine and it comes from the superfamily Hominoidea. Its family is Homindae and its Genus is Pan. There were five Chimpanzees in the enclosure at the Sacramento Zoo. In total, there were 4 males and one female from what I could tell. Their colorings were black and brown and one (the older male) had white hair in certain places on his body. Chimpanzees are in the primate group Ape and are the closest living relative to Humans (Homo sapiens). Apes have no tail. There is a slight sexual dimorphism in apes and this can be seen slightly in Chimpanzees. They mostly live in several areas of Africa and their general habitat is in forests. Chimpanzees are omnivores, so they eat mostly fruits, plants, mammals, birds, insects and vegetation, though in captivity they eat less varieties. They are bipedal but have quadrupedal tendencies. They climb, walk on their knuckles and walk semi-upright most of the time. Chimpanzees have an advanced social structure not unlike humans (Sacramento Zoo “Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)”).      

Behaviors and Interactions:

            The first of two behaviors I observed in this species while monitoring them at the Sacramento Zoo was mating. I listed in my bullet list that at one point a male and female (it was obvious she was female as her tail end was stimulated – it was very enlarged and bright pink/red) were up on top of a rope that was branched from one climbing structure to another and the male walked up behind the female and started having sex with her. I thought it was interesting because less than a minute later she walked away, climbed down and went into the back feeding area of the zoo enclosure. The male followed her. I couldn’t tell if they were just finished or if she was trying to get away from him. If it was the latter it would make sense since he seemed to wait until she was in a location where it would be more difficult for her to escape. After she went in the back, the other males all went back there as well. I thought, at first, they were interested in sex with her, but they all came out with carrots that they were given as part of an Easter basket the zoo presented to them earlier that day. The purpose of this behavior (mating) is usually to reproduce, but I read on a few different sources that while in captivity, many animals tend to mate more often than they would in the wild due to boredom.

            The second behavior I chose from the ones I observed was that the entire group seemed to leave the eldest male alone. They let him be off on his own and didn’t bother him. I didn’t recognize this at first, but when they all came back out with their carrots, one male began stealing carrots from everyone else. All in all, he ended up with several carrots in each hand, to which I questioned why he needed that many carrots. He even stole a couple from the female, but then she wasn’t having it and she scurried away from him. The whole time, however, this particular thieving male did not ever once attempt to bother the older male. This was when I noticed he had white hair in several areas of his body and seemed to be moving slower than the rest. He also never once climbed up high, whereas all of the other four Chimpanzees seemed to prefer being up high on the climbing structures.

Reflections and Conclusion:

            Overall, I enjoyed this experience. Though I will say this, I don’t believe in destiny or fate or predetermined outcomes in life, but for some reason, I must be destined to go to Zoos when it is raining. We’re in the middle of a four-year drought in California and I happened to go to the Zoo both in 2013 (during Anthropology 300) and 2015 on one of the only rainy days of the season. Luckily, the animals were much more active this time around than last time. In addition to observing several primate species, my wife and I also spent quite a long time observing the lions. The zoo just welcomed three baby lion cubs in October (they were allowed to come out into the public eye back in late January or early February, according to the zoo’s Facebook page) and they were out and active. The lions didn’t seem to like the rain though. It was sprinkling a bit when we first arrived at their enclosure and their little ears were twitching as the droplets of water lightly tapped them. The male adult lion grew annoyed with the water rather quickly and went under the large rock structure in their enclosure. The adult female also moved out of a more open area to a semi-enclosed area. One baby wanted so badly to cuddle with his mom or dad but they weren’t having it. He was quite persistent though and eventually cuddled with dad for a bit. Lions are my favorite animal and I could have stood there all day, but the wife insisted we move on.

I mention all of this because I couldn’t help but notice that the male adult lion actually bathed the adult female lion at one point after the rain. I’ve studied lions a lot throughout my life since, as I mentioned before, they are my favorite animal and this is simply something that doesn’t occur in the wild. Males are the dominant member of the pack in the wild and they really don’t do anything aside from eat, sleep, reproduce and protect the pack. It was interesting seeing this massive male lion caring for his “wife” in this captivity situation.

I don’t have a problem with animals in zoos, though I do like zoos such as the Folsom Zoo better because their aim is to have animals that can no longer live in the wild due to injury or having been kept as a pet. I feel like this is a better reason to have a zoo than to just have one because we want to observe animals. The biggest travesty to me is that the animals in the zoo are living in ways they wouldn’t live in the wild. They have different diets and engage in different behaviors. It’s a little sad that their nature side isn’t allowed to be nurtured. Though I suppose it isn’t that different than what we, as humans, do when we keeps dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, etc. as pets. 

Zoo Report Works Cited


“Chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes).” SacZoo. Sacramento Zoo, 1 Dec. 2003. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. <http://www.saczoo.org/document.doc?id=29&gt;.

Classification Charts:

“Explore and Discover.” ARKive. Arkive. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. <http://www.arkive.org&gt;.

“Home – The Sacramento Zoo.” Home – The Sacramento Zoo. Sacramento Zoo. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. <http://www.saczoo.org&gt;.

30-Minute Observation Bullet List:

  • Chimps were eating oranges or carrots
  • Two chimps began to mate up on a raised structure. They were standing on a rope that was branched across two climbing structures.
  • A lady took her children (one of which was maybe five years old and the other was in a stroller) and said, “Let’s go look at something else” when the chimps began mating. She left as quickly as possible.
  • The female who was mating left the area and went into the private room in the back of the enclosure
  • Male followed her into the back
  • Male and female came back out together
  • Another male came over to them and began fighting with the first male
  • All three and another male went into the back area
  • One male came back out and made a shouting call to another male, who was on the other side of the enclosure, to come join them
  • After a couple of minutes, all the males came back out with carrots in hand
  • The female came back out last
  • All but one went to their separate areas up in the trees/climbing structures
  • The other male went off to the right side of the enclosure by himself and began eating
  • All the males were separated and the female was as far away as she could get from the males
  • One male then began taking carrots from everyone else, including the female, but did not bother the male on the ground
  • I observed that the male on the ground seemed to be the oldest. He had white hair around his “chin” area and on his chest and upper legs. He wasn’t moving much. He also never climbed up the trees/structures and everyone left him alone.
  • The female went to another area after becoming annoyed with the male who was stealing carrots
  • This male had about five-ten carrots in each hand at this point. He must have been hungry!
  • People at the exhibit were referring to them as “monkeys”, which I thought was interesting
  • Kids were very excited that the chimps had carrots, the chimps and other primates in the zoo were given Easter baskets earlier that day
  • A young girl near me read the information panel out loud and her mom replied, “Very interesting!”
  • A lot of people were making comments on the diet of the Chimpanzees
  • Eventually the chimps all were in separate areas of the enclosure and laid down to eat their carrots or to rest. This was when my wife and I moved on to another exhibit.

About Daniel Wilson

Daniel has been a writer for over 25 years and recently earned his Bachelor's degree in journalism. Portfolio: www.dwilsonjourno.com.
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