I believe that the reason anthropologist study living primates is simply so we can learn more about ourselves. Granted, there’s a lot more to it than just that. By studying living primates we can learn more about our past, how we are related to said primate, and potentially see where we are going as a species. This is assuming we are heading in the same direction of the primate we are studying.
I’m starting with learning about the past because I believe this is the biggest point. It seems as humans we are more interested in the past than the future. The past has a lot to tell us and all we need to do is find a way to decipher the millions of clues. I say this because we can truly learn from anything and everything. For example, by looking at fossils we were able to find out that the continents were in fact connected at one point in time. That was all discovered at the very beginning too; the possibilities are endless. By looking into the past we are able to identify that primates came from an ancestor that lived in the trees. Today when I think of primates, some of the main ones that come to mind still live in trees; orangutans and lemurs. Furthermore, by studying primates we are able to see how closely we are related. For example, we know chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans all came from a common ancestor, Hominidae. From there we can observe and study to see how closely we are related to them. Humans and chimpanzees are closely related because they compare relatively closely in anatomy and genetics. I find this interesting that we are related to an animal that still roams the planet today. Even more interesting to me is the fact that even though we are closely related to them, we still keep these intelligent animals locked up in zoos. Finally, by looking at old species and examining their fossils and seeing how they lived and coming up with theories for why they went extinct we can learn from them. We are also able to track and further prove evolution to the skeptics by showing them the primates we derived from. Having a rough idea of where humans are going as a whole is and will be beneficial for society and we can thank our primate ancestors for helping us come up with these concepts.
In conclusion this is my take on why anthropologist study living primates. I think it’s important to note how much we can learn from them. Anytime new scientific facts come out about humans or primates we can thank the anthropologist working tirelessly to study the two species.