Documentaries and other Films – Primates


Please see videos on our Conservation page.


Newly posted videos:

Christophe Boesch on Chimpanzee Cultures in Wild Populations (2017)!


Smithsonian Channel – Chimps learn behaviour from one another (2017):


And on monkeys, Karen Strier’s Ted Talk, “Saving the world’s most peaceful primates” (2016):


From Living Links Centre, Edinburgh Zoo – learning resources! Design an ethogram for a primate behaviour study: Living Links Centre states, “This video shows a selected few behaviours and variations of them that will demonstrate the importance of defining and coding behaviours carefully before a study.” Find notes and other resources on Living Links website (although not recently updated, they still have useful videos, blog posts etc).


“The Chimp Smugglers” – Undercover BBC journalists pose as buyers of baby chimps to reveal the extensive, illegal, international trade in primates.  First aired on 4 February, 2017.  Will be available on BBC iplayer – “One World” – for 29 days.

“Koko: The Gorilla Who Talks to People” – documentary summarizing the life of Koko, the western lowland gorilla, over her forty-five years with carer Penny Patterson, in Woodside, California.   First aired on 15 June, 2016, the program is available for 29 days.  See “Science and Nature”, BBC iplayer.

“Natural World” – “Jungle Animal Hospital” – ARCAS.  John Hannah narrates the program on animals rescued from the illegal pet trade in Guatemala – many of them small orphans taken from their mothers.  Highlighted are an orphan spider monkey and the release of a troop of spider monkeys into a remote area.   Aired on 14 April, 2016, the program is available for 19 days on BBC iplayer.   You can also check the ARCAS website for information on the NGO,  See:     See also Charities and Blogs.

“Nature’s Miracle Orphans”, series 2:3, features orphaned baby howler monkey Santino.  Rescued from life as a pet monkey in Costa Rica, he is being rehabilitated and will be returned to the wild.   First aired on 28 February, 2016, the program will be available for 29 days on BBC  iplayer.

“Nature’s Wonderlands: Islands of Evolution” is presented by Professor Richard Fortey of the Natural History Museum, London.  The second episode, on Madagascar, is an in-depth look at the island, with important information on lemurs throughout.  A BBC4 presentation, this episode was aired on 25 January, 2016, and will be available on BBC iplayer for 29 days.

PONSO, abandoned with 19 other chimps by the NYBC on an island in Ivory Coast – please donate to SOS Ponso and to the 66 other chimps abandoned by NYBC in Liberia:

Lisa Marie, a rescued chimpanzee at Save the Chimps Inc.  (we have featured her in our most recent blog post):

60 Minutes, “Bonobos”, with Brian Hare (for a longer clip visit CBS news websiteCBS news website:

Bonobos:  Back to the Wild – opened 31 July, 2015:


Koko and new kitten companions:

Op-Doc (NYT), “Gorillas in the Crossfire” (2014), features individuals from the Virunga documentary (same documentary film director):

PBS documentary on Koko, from 1999 – well worth watching:

Mountain Gorillas, National Geographic film from 1991:

Gorillas Revisited with David Attenborough (2007)

See Gorilla Doctors videos 

Aspinall reunion with gorillas:

And a sad update on gorillas Aspinall released from captivity.  It poses the question of whether these gorillas were ready to live in the “wild” after captivity.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, U.S.A., has created a global gorilla-blood database.   See the video:

“Mountain Gorilla”,  a series on BBC2 narrated by Patrick Stewart – 1. Kingdom in the Clouds.   Details the lives of the world’s last mountain gorillas.   Available on BBC  I-player until 5 April.   See also “related links” on the site.


Illicit trade in primates:

The Culture of Tool Use in Primates:

National Geographic’s Primates of Indonesia (clip):

“Your Inner Fish: An Evolution Story” – 3. “Your Inner Monkey”, narrated by evolutionary biologist Neil Schubin, traces human connections to life on our planet.  Aired on 23 June, 2015, on BBC iplayer documentaries – available for 17 days.

“The Wonder of Animals – Great Apes”,  narrated by Chris Packham,  studies the anatomy, ingenuity and sociability of these primates.   Aired on 24 September, 2014, the program is available on BBC4 iplayer for one month.

Mother-offspring bond important for young bonobos, research from Emory, 2013:

“Monkey Planet” is back on BBC i-player.   The series was first aired starting on 2 April, 2014.   Two episodes are available, narrated by  zoologist Dr. George McGavin.   Available for 24 days, from 22 June, the programs can be found under documentaries.

Rare Footage of the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

Videos and webcams on primates (arranged by genus name) can be found on the Wisconsin Primate Research Centre site.

“The Wild Women of Viramba” – researchers followed a troop of yellow baboons over 25 years, first aired in 2003 on BBC, well worth watching if you have never seen it.

“Life in the Trees”, from David Attenborough’s “Life on Earth” surveys all types of primates, from lemurs and bush-babies to the gorillas and chimpanzees.    This segment was first aired in April, 1979 – the program contains much excellent information and ambitious photography.     It is available on DVD – a four-disc set, 2003.   From 2012 the series has been available as a four-disc Blu-ray set. Natural World – 2013-2014,

BBC 2 – “Orangutans: The Great Ape Escape”.   Follow the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation as its members release Leonora and Emen and their babies, as well as six other orangs into the wilds of northern Borneo.   These orphans are important “pioneers”, for the release of about 600 other orphaned orangs back into the wild hinges on whether the first group can survive.   The BOSF monitors the orangs through radio transmitters implanted under their skin.  At first, adapting to new foods/fruits seems to be a problem – especially for Emen and her baby and one teenage male.   But the ending is happy and this gives the rescue centre hope for release of the other orphans in the future.   The program was first broadcast on 4 October, and is available on iplayer until 1 November.   A must-see!

“Should a Chimp be Able to Sue Its Owner?” – the significant article and short video features lawyer Steven Wise (specialises in animal law).    Please see:

Chimps Inc., Bend, Oregon, provides an interesting video on their site (bottom of page):

Rare behaviour – male golden lion tamarin cares for pygmy marmoset babies.    See the video from Dublin Zoo:

“Rhys Jones Wildlife Patrol”, featuring Cardiff University lecturer and leading animal expert Dr. Rhys Jones, highlights the rescuing of a mandrill from Poland – rehoming the primate to the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary (see charities, this website).

Aired on BBC1, 7:30 pm, 14 April, series 2, episode 3 is available on BBC i-player. “Monkey Planet” , a new three-part series on the behaviour of primates worldwide, began 2 April on BBC 1.   The documentary is presented by well-known zoologist Dr. George McGavin.

BBC News About Primates has a variety of videos on various primates: Bonobo Conservation Initiative – dedicated to “Protecting Bonobos, Preserving Rainforest, Empowering People”.  See short video on website:

See rare camera trap footage of chimp behavior in remote part of Democratic Republic of Congo:

Videos of various types of primates, along with other information on primates, can be found on the “Primarily Primates” website.   For more information on this US-based charity and sanctuary, see also “News”, this website.

“Jungle Babies: Tarsier Tails”, a documentary series for Channel five and BBC Worldwide, is narrated by actor/presenter Bernard Cribbins and filmed by eminent cameraman, naturalist and wildlife presenter Adrian Cale.  The series follows the lives of two spectral tarsier families on the northern coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, over a period of one year.   Night cameras capture the activities of these intelligent, loving, yet fierce animals.   Cale also helped produce “Baboon Boot Camp” as well as “Gibbons: Back in the Swing” for Animal Planet.*  Check your tv guide for channel five times or Demand Five Iplayer for “Jungle Babies”.

*”Gibbons: Back in the Swing” is a five-part series highlighting gibbons throughout Thailand as they struggle against the impact of tourism and the illegal pet trade.   See:

“Refugees of the Lost Rainforest” is an excellent account of the work being done by the Jersey Zoo (Gerald Durrell’s legacy) and its sister rehabilitation centre in the far north of the Island of Sumatra – the program focuses on the endangered orangutans living on both islands.   Orangs, when they are ready, are released back into the wild from the Sumatran centre – they are chipped to allow tracking to determine their progress.   Another focus is on the dangers to Sumatran wildlife – the production of palm oil and other reasons for deforestation.   Narrated by John Nettles, the program is available on BBC Iplayer until 7 December.

Madagascar is home to some of the most endangered animals on the planet – especially primates (see “Primate Facts – Plight of Primates Today”, this website – 6 lemurs from Madagascar are on the 25 most endangered primates list).   The BBC series “Deadly Mission Madagascar” is back (first aired in February, 2013), focusing on school children from the UK in partnership with children in Madagascar to develop a conservation ethos through education.   A major aim is ascertaining whether a national park is beneficial for local people and wildlife.

See CBBC, 11:35 am, Tuesdays. “Primate Cinema” is an enlightening look at the similarities between non-human primates and humans. Produced by LA artist Professor Rachel Mayeri, who has collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr. Sarah-Jane Vick, the project gauges the responses of chimps (Edinburgh Zoo) to a video installation drama of humans dressed as apes (2011-2013).

See: “Apes as Family” –

See also the video “Baboons as Friends” (2007), at Natural World – 2013-2014,  “Orangutans: the great ape escape”.

Follow the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation as its members release Leonora and Emen and their babies, as well as six other orphaned orangutans into the forests of Northern Borneo.  These orangutans are pioneers because the release of over 600 other orangutans hinges on whether this first group survives.  The BOSF monitors the animals through radio transmitters implanted under their skin.  At first adapting to new food/fruit seems to be a problem, especially for Emen and baby and one teenage male.  But the ending is positive and this gives the rescue centre hope for the release of the other orphaned orangutans in future.  The programme was first broadcast on BBC2 for October and will be available on Iplayer until 1 November, 2013.

A must see. Natural World – 2013-2014, “Meet the Monkeys”, is an excellent documentary on crested black macaques found in Sulawesi, Indonesia.   Presented by Colin Stafford-Johnson, well-known cinematographer and host of “Living the Wildlife”, the film highlights the plight of a troop of 70 macaques whose numbers have decreased by about 90% due to loss of habitat and increased bushmeat hunting.  Stafford-Johnson expertly captures the precociousness and curiosity of these primates.   He films them during long grooming sessions, at play, and during other – sometimes complex – social interaction. The resulting film is shown to the local population at a special screening, to make the people aware of the similarities of the lives of these primates to the lives of humans, and to point up the dangers to their existence.    Children from the area are also guided through the forest to encounter the macaques and observe them – one of the monkeys is recognised from the film.   The highlight for Stafford-Johnson happens just before he leaves – when two macaques try to groom his hair!   Aired on BBC Two on 6 Sept. at 9:00pm and 7 Sept. at 5:00pm, the program can be found for a short time on iplayer.   Hopefully it will also be found on DVD.

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