Academic Profile

Alexandra (Ally) Palmer is a social science researcher with a background in social and biological anthropology (the latter focusing on primatology). Ally holds a PhD in anthropology from University College London; her previous studies were undertaken at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where she completed a BA, BA Honours, and MA in anthropology, along with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in filmmaking.

Ally’s research involves ethnographic, ethological, and archival methods to explore social and ethical questions in human-animal relationships, with a particular focus on non-human primates (especially orangutans) and conservation and wildlife research. Her current work as part of the Animal Research Nexus — conducted alongside Beth Greenhough and Reuben Message — uses ethnographic research methods to explore what happens when regulations governing animal research in the UK move out of the laboratory and into sites like wildlife field projects, zoos, veterinary clinics, and farms. Previous work has explored ethical dilemmas faced by practitioners working in orangutan conservation and rehabilitation, and keeper-orangtuan relationships in a zoo.


Alongside Reuben Message, Ally teaches an elective for Masters students in ‘Animal Controversies’.

Selected Publications

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Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • Palmer, A. (2020) Anthropologist or primatologist? In, Alcayna-Stevens, L. and Yen Dam, H. (eds.) Cahiers d’anthropologie sociale 18, Primates. L’Herne, Paris. ISBN: 9791031902784.
  • Malone, N., Palmer, A. and Wade, A. (2017) Incorporating the ethnographic perspective: the value, process, and responsibility of working with human participants. In, Dore, K., Riley, E.P. and Fuentes, A. (eds.) Ethnoprimatology: a practical guide to research on the human-nonhuman primate interface. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. pp. 176-189. ISBN: 978-1107109964.
  • Malone, N. and Palmer, A. (2014) Ethical issues within human-alloprimate interactive zones. In, Leah Burns, G. and Paterson, M. (eds.) Engaging with animals: Interpretations of a shared existence. University of Sydney Press, Sydney. pp. 21-38. ISBN: 978-1743320297.


  • Palmer, A. (2018) Saving and sacrificing: ethical questions in orangutan rehabilitation. PhD thesis in Anthropology, University College London.
  • Palmer, A. (2012) Keeper/orangutan interactions at Auckland Zoo: communication, friendship, and ethics between species. Master of Arts thesis in Anthropology, University of Auckland.