Going Primal

Dr. Lana Williams and the Global Achievement Academy students view the world of primates at the Center for Great Apes on Apr. 25.

Dr. Lana Williams (center, back) and the Global Achievement Academy students view the world of primates at the Center for Great Apes on Apr. 25.

The UCF Global Achievement Academy students got an up-close look at primate diversity during their field trip to the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, FL on Apr. 25.

As a part of the ANT 2511: Human Species course taught by Dr. Lana Williams, the Global Achievement Academy received a chance to explore the biological variety of chimpanzees and orangutans that have been rescued or retired from the entertainment industry, used for research, or from being abandoned by pet owners. Williams said that this was the GAA students’ first time visiting the sanctuary, as well as the first time she taught the human species course.

“I think it was a very different experience for [the GAA students],” Williams said. “They’re international students, and they come from areas specifically where these primates live naturally, so for them it was a reinforcement of some of the nature from home and seeing the conservation efforts we have here.”

The Center for Great Apes is a non-profit organization that the UCF Department of Anthropology supports through donations. The sanctuary is known both nationally and internationally for accepting primates that need rehabilitation and physical therapy, and the faculty works to ensure that they have a comfortable life. The center has also received visits from British anthropologist and primatologist Jane Goodall.

Williams said that she wanted the GAA students to take away the concept that human beings are not that far removed from primates.

“Learning about their daily habits, their interactions with one another, and seeing them face-to-face really drove home how much they are like us, and that we are not as unique as we like to think we are,” she said.

Williams also said the opportunity to interact with the primates provided GAA students with a greater understanding and awareness of conservation efforts from the perspective of animal sanctuaries, and reinforced classroom teachings in a way that allowed students to survey the nature of mankind’s closest living relatives.

“This was really good for the students to see different kinds of facilities outside of UCF and really come into contact with things they’re learning about in the classroom,” Williams said. “I can’t wait to take the next group.”

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