Raymond Dart as a pioneering primatologist

G. Štrkalj*, P. V. Tobias

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Raymond Dart is best known today for his groundbreaking research in palaeoanthropology. It is often forgotten, however, that Dart was a scientist of many interests, who made significant contributions to various disciplines. One of these is the study of living non-human primates. Dart became aware of the importance of primate studies and their relevance for research in other disciplines early in his career. In the late 1920s Dart established a colony of captive baboons in the Anatomy Department, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. On these animals, members of his Department, most notably Joseph Gillman and Christine Gilbert, carried out a number of significant behavioural and endocrinological researches. In 1930, as a member of an Italian Scientific Expedition, Dart was involved in hunting a mountain gorilla (for research purposes). He was also active in primate field studies. In 1957 he and Phillip Tobias founded a Witwatersrand University Uganda Gorilla Research Unit for the study of the Virunga mountain gorillas. The unit produced pioneering studies, conducted by Jill Donisthorpe, on the behaviour of these primates in their natural habitat. At the same time Dart was actively engaged in conservation of the mountain gorillas. He also studied South African chacma baboons in the wild. In the field of primate studies Raymond Dart figures prominently as a pioneering catalyst as well as researcher and conservationist.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)271-286
    Number of pages16
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2008


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