Primatology (Primate Animals)

Learn about monkeys, apes and other primates. This comprehensive course will teach you all about the taxonomy, biology and management of primate animals both in captivity and the wild.

Course Code: BEN210
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
Get started!
Learn about the taxonomy, biology and management of primate animals
... both in captivity and the wild.
  • differences between species of primates and the characteristics of each. 
  • nutritional, physical and psychological needs for keeping primates healthy in captivity and the wild. 
  • how to manage and breed primates in captivity and learning about conversation of primates in the wild.
 Apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates are complex animals. They are widely studied both for conservation purposes, and also because what we learn about primates can often provide insights into human biology (because of the close genetic similarities).

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Primates –scope, nature, anatomy & physiology, evolution and taxonomy
    • Order Primates
    • Distinguishing Characteristics of Primates
    • Taxonomy of Primates
    • New World and Old World Monkeys
    • Anatomy and Physiology
  2. The Strepsirhines
    • Family Daubentoniidae
    • Family Lorisidae (or Loridae)
    • Family Galagidae (syn. Galagonidae)
    • Family Lemuridae
    • Extinct Families
    • Examples Of Living Groups
  3. The Haplorhines
    • Family Cebidae
    • Family Tarsiidae
    • Family Callitrichidae
    • Family Atelidae
    • Family Cercopithecidae
    • Family Hylobatidae
    • Family Pongidae
    • Family Hominidae
    • Tarsiers
    • Baboons
    • Drills
    • Macaques
    • Mangabey Monkeys
    • Vervet Monkeys
    • Marmosets
    • Capuchins
    • True Spider Monkeys
    • Guenon Monkeys
    • Patas Monkeys
  4. Diet and Nutrition re environment feed and supplements in a nature park environment
    • Nutritional Requirements of Primates
    • Physiological Adaptations to Different Diets
  5. Health - Illness Pests and diseases specific to above
    • Exercise
    • Observation and Assessment of Health or Condition
    • Common Illnesses
    • Pathogenic
    • Disease and Primate Conservation
    • First Aid on Humans Exposed to NHP Injuries or Body Fluids
  6. Primate Behaviour in the Wild
    • Social Behaviour
    • Social Group Composition
    • What are the benefits of living in groups for primates?
    • Physical Environment
    • Communication
    • Behaviours
  7. Psychological Wellbeing in Primates in Captivity
    • Recognising Abnormal Behaviour
    • The Primate as a Pet
    • Social Deprivation and Primates
    • Abnormal Behaviour in Captivity
    • Self-Harm in Primates in Captivity
    • Foraging For Food
    • Managing Boredom
    • Learning and Training Primates
    • Handling Primates
    • Sedation
  8. Breeding programmes and optimum resources needed for this
    • Primate Groups
    • Gregarious Primates
    • Fertility and Reproduction
    • Breeding and Conceiving
    • Pregnancy and Birth
  9. Conservation in the wild -of individual breeds?
    • Conservation Status of Primate Species
    • Susceptibility to Extinction
    • Unique Problems
    • What Animals are most Endangered?
    • Recovery Programmes
  10. Managing primates in Captivity
    • Primates in captivity
    • Enclosure Design
    • Transporting Primates
    • Reasons and Ethics of Keeping Primates in Captivity
    • Risks Working With Primates

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • To understand the taxonomy, biology and management of primate animals both in captivity and the wild.
  • Discuss the nature and scope of our knowledge of primate animals.
  • Describe a variety of different species from the suborder Strepsirhini.
  • Describe a variety of different species from the suborder Haplorhini.
  • Explain the dietary requirements for different primates.
  • Explain the management of the physical wellbeing of primates.
  • Explain the psychology of primates and their natural behaviour.
  • Explain the management of the psychological wellbeing of primates in captivity.
  • Explain breeding programmes for managing the conservation of primates.
    • Explain the conservation of a range of primates.
  • Explain the management of primates in captivity.


Primates are a diverse group, and are one of the oldest orders of mammals. They include prosimians, monkeys, apes and humans.

Primates evolved from small arboreal (tree dwellers) ancestors. The fact that most primates remained in trees as the many species evolved is thought to have kept them from danger. Trees offer protection from predators; and also trees provide a reliable source of food (vegetation, insects, etc). Primates that are ground dwelling now are big sized species or man.

In order to stop them from falling, arboreal primates evolved hands, rather than claws as in other arboreal animals, that can grasp branches firmly. This adaptation had a secondary value, allowing primates the ability to hold and manipulate objects more precisely than other animals.

With more useable hands, primates were better able to jump from branch to branch. To jump more effectively, primates would then need better eyesight; a better sense of touch; and greater intelligence to make faster decisions as they moved through the trees.

Distinguishing Characteristics of Primates:
  • They possess a large brain relative to body size. The cerebral cortex (neocortex) which is responsible for such processes as memory, language, consciousness and attention is particularly large.
  • The middle ear is enclosed by a skeleton (petrosal bulla)
  • Usually only two mammary glands.
  • Primates usually only have one baby per pregnancy. They also have a slower rate of development, late sexual maturity and longer lives.
  • Tendency to hold the body trunk upright, leading to some being bipedal in movement (walking on hind legs) eg. Humans, gorillas.
  • A clavicle or collar bone which is an important component of the shoulder. The presence of a clavicle allows primates to hang from one arm, an ability used by primates such as gibbons to travel from tree to tree.
  • Sexual dimorphism in body mass and the size of the canine teeth.
  • Presence of shoulder joint and elbow joint (allows more flexible movement of limbs)
  • Commonly five useable digits on all four limbs; and enhanced digital dexterity along with opposable thumbs, which assists with grasping objects.
  • Claws have been replaced by flattened nails made of keratin on at least one digit.
  • Sensitive ends to the digits
  • Fewer teeth than more primitive mammals. The cheek teeth are bunodont (low and rounded) and brachyodont (unusually short), with 4 cusps, adapted mainly for grinding and occasional shearing.
  • Jaws that move vertically mainly, with limited horizontal movement, in contrast to other mammals
  • Complex eye sight, forward-facing eyes which provide binocular vision. This allows primates to better perceive distances, move through trees and handle food.
  • The eye socket is also backed up by a superior back bone (postorbital bar)
  • Smaller nose than many other mammals, as they rely more on sight than smell. Consequently the olfactory brain areas (olfactory lobes) are reduced.
  • Tails are absent in apes and humans, but present in some species such as the monkeys and lemurs. The tail in these species provides balance when moving through trees.
Working With Primates

People come to work with primates in many different ways. Formal studies can certainly help; but you cannot guarantee a career with primates by simply doing the right course. Some primate experts started out volunteering at zoos, reserves or wildlife parks, and some may have been employed as a "general" animal attendant; developing specialised knowledge and experience about primates over time, that eventually made them into a serious contender for a good job with primates.
Top level primate scientists will have often studied at university; but such jobs are highly competitive, and difficult to get unless you have considerably more than just a formal study program.

 People work with primates in lots of different situations, for example:

  • Caring for animals in captivity, in zoos or wildlife parks
  • Conservation and breeding work 
  • Veterinary and animal health care (eg. veterinary assistants, zoo keepers).
  • Pet industries (Some primates are legally kept as pets in some countries).
  • Rangers and tour guides in ecotourism, wilderness reserves, etc
  • Breeding and caring for animals in research facilities. Some such jobs can be ethically questionable; nevertheless do exist. Research can be as varied as researching behaviour and psychology, to pharmaceutical and product testing.
  • Media (eg. nature photography, making documentaries, writing books and articles)

If you have a passion for working with primates, start by both doing this course, and volunteering.

  • The course will give you the basic knowledge you need to start building a better understanding of primates

  • Volunteering opportunities can often be found through the internet. Zoos all over the world have opportunities for volunteers. Sometimes you may need to start with different animals; but experience with a different animal can often open up opportunities to work with primates.  If your passion is strong enough; be prepared to travel in order to get experience. Working as a volunteer for a month in Africa may make a difference if you apply for a job at a zoo, closer to home.


ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

Simply click on the ENROL OPTIONS button at the top of this screen and follow the prompts.

You can see the course price at the top of this page. Click 'enrolment options' to see any payment options available.

You can pay by Credit Card, PayPal, Afterpay or bank transfer.

Yes! We have payment plans for most courses. Click 'enrolment options' to see the available payment plans.
We also have Afterpay that will allow you to pay for your course or payment plans in four instalments (if you are in Australia).

What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
We are focused on helping you learn and make the most of your experience.
You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

We can prepare an invoice, quote or proforma invoice. Simply complete your details on our Invoice Request form

We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Yes, we have many students who are in locked facilities, such as prisons or hospitals. We can cater by also offering paper notes at an additional cost.

What if I have any more questions or need more information?

We can assist you to find the right course for your needs. Get in touch with us via email ( call on +61 7 5562 1088 or complete our course advice form.

What if I change my mind?

Please get in touch with if you would like to be removed from our mail list.

If you would like ACS Distance Education to delete your information at any time (whether you are a customer or a prospective customer), please contact our privacy officer and we will process this ( ).

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation.
Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.

Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability.
Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and development, husbandry, thermo-biology, reproduction technologies, and facility design.Robert has B.Sc., Ph, D.

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.