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Primate see, primate do.

Acrobatic, colorful, fascinating, the 16 threatened or endangered species in the San Francisco zoological Gardens' new primate habitat are the stars of the show. But their innovative $7-million stage--the Primate Discovery Center, scheduled to open April 27--deserves equal billing.

Designed by Marquis Associates of San Franscisco, the new center lets you watch these animals interact in their natural surroundings--savanna grassland, humid tropics, forest canopy. From elevated walkways, protruding platforms, and glass-sided enclosures, you can get a variety of perspectives on their activity.

Discovery Hall in the middle of the center is a good starting place. Here, 23 displays illustrate and explain primate behavior, locomotion, eating habits, and more. (Primates are an order of mammals distinguished by thumbs and fingers that grip by grasping; they have fingernaisls, not claws, and relativley large brains.)

A nocturnal gallery houses for species under reversed light cycles; you walk into a dimly lit room to their night, their peak activity period. An open-air grove, 60 feet high and enclosed in wire mesh, lets you watch a troupe of colobus monkeys leap and screech through a canopy of trees, just as they would in the wild.

Several of the primates are on view in San Francisco for the first time. And the Francois' leaf monkey can be seen in only one other zoo in the country: San Diego's. Big crowds are expected the first few months; come early or on a weekday. The zoo, at Sloat Boulevard and 45th Avenue, is open 10 to 5 daily. Admission is $2.50, 50 cents for seniors, free for children under age 15 with an adult.

Here's a brief description of the animals as you might come across them on a walkthrough, with advice on best viewing times and traits to look for. For close observation, you may want to bring binoculars or a camera with a long lens (camera flash is prohibited in the noctural gallery--it may disturb the animals).
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Title Annotation:Primate Discovery Center at the San Francisco Zoo
Date:May 1, 1985
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