Family Matters

Series 1 - Episode 2 Family Matters



Don’t be misled by the footage of cute orphaned bonobo apes clambering over presenter Dr George McGavin, or by this edition’s cosy-sounding theme of families. There are disturbing scenes showing chimps working together in an impressively calculated way to hunt down their prey (a monkey troupe with an infant) as well as the cruelty meted out by Japanese macaques to a low-ranking youngster.

But it is extraordinary witnessing the sophisticated alarm signals used by vervets and the eerily human way the thousand-strong troupes of gelada baboons in Ethiopia “gossip” as a way of keeping connected to each other. Equally interesting is how bonobos use sex to do the same.


Zoologist George McGavin continues his exploration of the primate world, considering how the secret to their success is the ability to live in close-knit family and social groups. This is demonstrated by the emperor tamarin males conned into childcare in Peru and the South African vervet monkeys that have a sophisticated alarm system to protect them from predators. But living together often has its problems, like the Barbary macaques in Gibraltar who have their babies stolen by others out to impress their boss, the matriarchal ring-tailed lemur societies where females battle one another with their children in tow, and the hamadryas baboons of Ethiopia where the males rule with an iron fist.

Cast & Crew

Presenter George McGavin
Executive Producer Chris Cole
Producer Gavin Boyland
Series Producer Jo Shinner