How Our Primates Get Their Grub On

One of the most important duties that zookeepers have is to make sure that the animals in their care are engaging in “species-typical behavior.” This means that we want our animals to behave in the Zoo the same way they behave in nature. And, in nature, a good portion of a primate’s day is spent looking for food. Ripping up bark and leaves, searching for fruit, insects and gum exudates (a sap-like substance), as well as digging in the dirt for tubers or roots are all ways that primates can find food in the wild.

In the Zoo, primates do identical behaviors with their enrichment foods. We scatter sunflower seeds, peanuts or mixed nuts around their exhibit before releasing them from their night houses.


We take ketchup, mustard or relish and drizzle tiny bits of it in places where it will be a surprise when they find it. Sometimes a teaspoon of non-fat yogurt or low-fat peanut butter might be smeared on some branches here and there, to the delight of the monkeys who find it. All of these foods are spread out in unexpected places and found only after the primates have eaten their most nutritious foods of primate biscuits and leafy greens, which are served for breakfast.

Our Animal Nutrition department prepares all of these goodies, and also procures earthworms, waxworms, mealworms and crickets, all of which are part of a rounded primate diet. Although primates are mostly vegetarian, some will slurp up a nice fat earthworm without a moment of hesitation!

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Status Update

Save the date to support your Houston Zoo on December 1 - Giving Tuesday!

Taking place after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday encourages people to donate to the causes and organizations they appreciate most.

Support the Houston Zoo by giving the Gift of Grub on Giving Tuesday to help us maximize TXU Energy’s $50,000 matching gift challenge before the December 31 deadline.

More than 6,000 wildlife ambassadors chow down many tons of food every year. Our elephant herd alone consumes 18 bales of hay each day!
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Yesterday, we were out with NOAA in Galveston looking for cold stunned sea turtles. Here's a shot we took while walking through the marsh during a beautiful and crisp morning.

Read more about sea turtles and how you can help them on our website:
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Casey McaninchBrest pic

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Casey McaninchI ment great pic

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Monica Ann De LeonWhere any found?

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