If you know you want to study lemurs in Madagascar, what should you do first? Katherine Meier ’16 (Madison, Conn.) decided to get some firsthand experience with primates through an internship at St. Paul’s Como Zoo.

Although she had only ventured to the city zoo once before, Meier set her sights on landing its lone primate internship—and did. She’s spending 15 hours a week and earning four credits this semester working with gorillas, orangutans, sloths, lemurs and other primates, mostly cleaning holdings and exhibits and preparing their varied diets.

“We go through a ton of produce every week,” she says. “It’s amazing.” Besides lots of lettuce, each primate has a specific diet of fruits and vegetables, including celery, tomatoes, carrots, yams, apples, oranges, and of course, bananas. Some even have different morning and evening menus.

Then there are the sloths, who have “very interesting dietary needs,” says Meier. Because of their slow, complicated digestive system, their vegetables must be cut into long, thin slices and then steamed. “When they eat it kind of looks like a snake eating a rat,” she says.

So far the orangutans are her favorites because they are “so much more obviously cognitive and intelligent, self-aware, and sassy—by far the most likely to steal things from their keepers and hide them.” One orangutan even does paintings on canvas, Meier says, and another spits at a keeper she doesn’t like.

Spring semester will find Meier working with those lemurs she’s focused on, doing an independent study project while attending an SIT program in biodiversity and natural resources in Madagascar. With both her internship and study abroad plans, Meier received guidance from anthropology professor Scott Legge, the faculty primatology expert.

December 8 2014

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