The Representation of Non-Human Primates in the Nature Documentary Genre

Crystal Riley Koenig

Nature documentaries, including those focused on wild primates, have increased in popularity in recent years. More of these films are being produced, and they are reaching larger audiences than ever before. Despite large general audiences and widespread use for educational purposes, little research has focused on the content of these films or how they portray wildlife. These underexplored issues are examined in my dissertation, which evaluates how non-human primate biodiversity, behavior, and ecology are portrayed in the nature documentary genre, and zeroes in on how these films are used in the teaching of college-level anthropology. One of my dissertation chapters, “Teaching anthropology with primate documentaries: Investigating instructors’ use of films and introducing the Primate Films Database” was recently published in American Anthropologist.

As part of my data collection, I screened 210 primate documentaries and wrote a review about each one. These reviews, along with other information about the documentaries (i.e. runtime, featured species, narrator/host, and ratings of teaching usefulness) can be found in the Primate Films Database, a freely available resource for educators and others with an interest in primates. The Primate Films Database is available at