What is a Primatologist?

Most famous Primatologist was Dian Fossey: 


A Primatologist is a scientist who studies non-human primates.

Amongst all living creatures, primates are our closest relatives.

Examples of primates:

  • Monkeys
  • Apes and Gorillas
  • Lemurs
  • Gibbons etc

Primatology helps us gain a better understanding of our own characteristics. It also helps us understand what makes us human both biologically and behaviourally.

Primates are one of the most diverse groups of animals.

For example:

  • Smallest: Mouse Lemur at only 23-24 grams
  • Largest: Adult Gorilla at over 200kg!

What does a Primatologist do?

  • spends hours and hours (sometimes days or months) monitoring primates usually in very remote areas
  • monitors activities like cleaning, feeding, sleeping, fighting, breeding and mating habits etc
  • takes photographs
  • documents as much information in detail as they can
  • analyses information
  • in some cases, dissects primates in a laboratory
  • compares results with similar scientists
  • writes reports
  • attends conferences

Are you . . . ?

  • passionate about primates?
  • willing to work in remote areas by yourself for months on end?
  • detail orientated?
  • patient?
  • a lover of nature?
  • dedicated?
  • observant?

How do I become a Primatologist?

Primatologists need to have a sound knowledge of primate-related disciplines such as anatomy, physiology, ecology, ethology (science of animal behaviour), taxonomy (classification of an individual animal), geology, anthropology, biochemistry, genetics, medical science and neurology.

Most Primatologists start their career doing a Bachelor of Science (BSc) at one of our local universities.

Once you have your BSc it is recommended you do an Honours and PhD degrees in, for instance:

  • Zoology
  • Genetics  etc

It will depend on you and what you want to study. Check your local university for their choices.



Relevant Honours degree in Primatology

Workplace experience

Registration with the SACNASP: South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions as a Professional Natural Scientist: (Pr.Sci.Nat)


  • CLICK HERE to check for a training institution near you to see what they offer.
  • Make sure you understand their entry requirements for each course.
  • To avoid scams, make sure your institution is registered with the Department of Higher Education. 
  • CLICK HERE to check accredited Private Higher Education Institutions. 

OTHER CAREERS TO CONSIDER:  Animal Care Attendant … or … Veterinary Surgeon

Is becoming a Primatologist the right career choice for me?