How to Find Internships Working With Primates

Orangutan mom and baby

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Primate internships can be great learning opportunities for students interested in becoming primatologists, zoologists, zookeepers, wildlife biologists, or ​animal behaviorists. Be warned that there are some organizations that offer “internships” which require the student to pay to participate in the program. The opportunities detailed below do not have such participation fees and some offer a stipend, free housing, or an hourly wage.

Here are some internship options for those looking to gain experience with primates:

California National Primate Research Center 

The California National Primate Research Center offers a variety of internship opportunities at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels. Interested students are encouraged to contact faculty directly to inquire about these positions. The center also offers a residency program in primate medicine for veterinarians. The program lasts for 36 months and includes clinical rounds, classes, seminars, and a research project.

Chimp Haven

Chimp Haven in Louisiana offers several opportunities for interns to work with chimpanzees living in their sanctuary. Students may work in animal care and husbandry, behavior, environmental enrichment, or veterinary medicine. Most opportunities require at least a four- to eight-week commitment and 40 hours per week. Internships at Chimp Haven are unpaid but on-site housing may be available.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund offers several primate internship positions including a research internship based at Zoo Atlanta. This one-year internship involves behavioral and cognitive research, data entry and analysis, and public lectures. A 40-hour workweek is required and applicants must have a BA in psychology, zoology, or a closely related field. Interns receive a monthly stipend.

Duke Lemur Center 

The Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina offers internships in several areas including husbandry, field research, and education. The facility has more than 250 animals on-site–primarily lemurs but also other species such as bush babies. Internships are available in spring, summer, and fall sessions, although the educational internship is only offered in the summer. These are unpaid opportunities but college credit may be arranged.

Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo in Illinois offers the Fisher Center Research Internship program for aspiring primatologists. Part-time internships are unpaid and require a commitment of at least 12 hours per week over a four-month period. Part-time interns collect behavioral data on gorillas and chimpanzees. There are between seven and 12 part-time internship positions offered each year, with new interns generally starting in January, May, or September. Full-time internships are paid opportunities that begin in the summer and run for a full year. Only three full-time positions are offered each year and the selection process is highly competitive.

Pacific Primate Sanctuary 

The Pacific Primate Sanctuary in Hawaii offers internships with its collection of New World primates. Interns earn a Primary Animal Caregiver Certification at the conclusion of their year at the sanctuary. Daily activities include providing basic care, cleaning and maintaining the facility, animal handling, assisting with veterinary work, keeping records, and training volunteers. While the internships are unpaid, shared on-site housing with wireless internet and utilities is provided.

Primate Rescue Center

The Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky offers a one-year internship working with 50 primates in a sanctuary environment. Applicants should be recent graduates with a background in primatology, animal behavior, biology, psychology, or a closely related area. Interns learn about primate care, husbandry, rehabilitation, and behavior. The workweek is 40 hours plus some evening and weekend events. Interns receive on-site housing and a stipend of $50 per week.

Southwest National Primate Research Center

The Southwest National Primate Research Center in Texas offers undergraduate and graduate student internships for eight weeks each summer and on a limited basis during the rest of the year. The facility boasts the largest captive baboon population plus a variety of other species such as chimpanzees, macaques, marmosets, and tamarins. Summer internship applications are due in mid-March and as many as six interns will be selected to participate. Interns receive an hourly wage based on experience as well as up to $1,000 per student for supplies or research expenses.

Tulane National Primate Research Center 

The Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana offers paid veterinary internships. The veterinary internships are available to students who have completed at least the first year of vet school. Vet interns learn about primate medicine, pathology, and research. Compensation is available at the rate of $15.31 per hour. Applications are due February 1 and the internships run from June to August.