There's some Monkey Business going on at National Museum of Scotland
Fun and informative chance to get up close to our primate cousins
The first thing that hits you is the noise. Calls, cries and screeches that seem to fly above your head as primates pass on vital information to each other. Much the same is going on down below, as we humans discuss a new fact we've just learned or point out the cute face and pink bum we've just spotted.
Because we're all in it together, as a mirror in the exhibition's entrance points out. 'You are a primate', says the sign, placing us in the centre of a gallery of monkeys, gibbons, apes and lemurs.
The team behind Monkey Business are experts in their field, and it shows. Each primate (none of which were killed for the purposes of this exhibition) has been taxidermied and positioned to feel as life-like as possible. Whether it's a baboon striding along the ground, paw outstretched; a Hamlyn's monkey flying between branches; or a Geoffroy's marmoset clinging to a trunk – each animal behaves as it would in the wild.
Over 60 primates have been assembled, each taking us closer to understanding the similarities and differences between us and our closest animal relatives. Sections on habitat, diet, sight and sound each come with fascinating morsels of information (eg: for years, scientists thought Tarsiers just yawned a lot – turns out they were talking to each other in a voice pitched four times higher than humans can hear).
Some facts come via information boards, but for younger visitors (and anyone up for a bit of fun) interactive screens positioned throughout the exhibition offer hands-on learning. Set in a cartoon supermarket, 'What they eat' asks us to fill a shopping basket with the right food for omnivores, herbivores, frugivores and insectivores. 'Fishing For Termites' has us pitching our dexterity against the clock with a long stick and log filled with (wooden) termites. Plus a 'jungle climb' area where children can practise their best branch swinging.
A necessary note about endangered species and lost habitats ends this highly enjoyable exhibition on a sombre note, but with glimmers of hope for the future – all of which is in our hands.
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, until 23 Apr, times and prices vary.