Zoos Victoria



What is a Primate?

The mammalian order Primates incorporates many varied animals including lemurs, lorises, tarsiers, monkeys, orang-utans, Siamangs and humans. A primate is defined as an animal that has the most of a set of ‘primate’ characteristics. These characteristics include:
  • Opposable thumbs
  • Divergent big toe, often opposable
  • Digits with nails
  • Forward-facing eyes
  • Posterior protection of the orbit
  • Relatively large brain
  • Relatively long gestation
  • Relatively slow post-natal growth, late sexual maturity and long life span


Primate Groups

Primates can be divided into six ‘natural’ groupings.

  1. Lemurs
  2. Lorises
  3. Tarsiers
  4. New World Monkeys e.g. Capuchins, Spider Monkeys and Marmosets
  5. Old World Monkeys e.g. Baboons, Mandrill and Lion-tailed Macaque
  6. Apes e.g. orang-utans, Siamangs and Humans

Find out more about Melbourne Zoo’s orang-utans (Santan, Mai, Malu, Gabby, Kiani) and Siamangs (Isidor, Sampit).