Scientists Try to Save Woolly Monkeys from Extinction … by Training Them to Be Wild Again


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Colombia’s Andes Mountains utilized to be filled with wildlife, consisting of South America’s sole bear types, the phenomenon bear, and the mountain tapir, which lives just worldwide’s greatest elevations.

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You could not stroll a mile in the jungle without seeing a woolly monkey– huge, nimble and charming primates with effective long tails.

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Now, the types is difficult to area. Over the past 50 years, environment loss, poaching and smuggling for adoption as family pets have actually all annihilated Colombia’s woolly monkey populations. Andean woolly monkeys are at threat of extinction in the next century, scientists state. They have actually currently vanished totally in some parts of Colombia.

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To save the woolly monkey, Colombian wildlife and ecological firms partnered with scientists like us from the Lab of Tropical Forest Ecology and Primatology at Colombia’s University of the Andes.

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In August 2017, we launched 6 captive woolly monkeys into the forests of southern Huila, about a 12- hour drive south of Bogota, the capital. This jungle-covered area was as soon as house to lots of soldiers of these charming primates. Now they’re notably missing.

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We desired to see if animals born in the wild, caught by traffickers and taken by Colombian authorities might discover to live there again.

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Launching animals who have actually hung around in captivity is dangerous. Typically, they do not have the habits needed to make it through in the wild, such as self-defense and bonding techniques.

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According to a detailed evaluation of wildlife reintroduction programs worldwide, just 26 percent succeed. Many either stop working outright– the animals pass away– or do not last sufficient to examine the fate of the launched animals.

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To assist us establish a training prepare for promoting natural habits, we initially invested over a year observing lots of captive woolly monkeys at zoos and sanctuaries throughout Colombia.

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We saw that lots of woolly monkeys had actually ended up being relatively awkward climbers, and instead of look for food they tended to wait on their caretakers to feed them. They had actually likewise lost the capability to area and get away predators.

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After a year of examining their habits, we picked 11 prospects for possible reintegration into the wild based upon their reproductive practicality, strength, health and non-attachment to people.

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Throughout the six-month rehab procedure, we utilized what we call “environmental enrichment” to impart survival abilities amongst these woolly monkeys.

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To minimize time invested lolling on the ground and motivate climbing up, we positioned the monkeys’ food high up on platforms simulated trees. We likewise promoted bonding by putting sets of woolly monkeys together in “socialization cages,” which motivates them to groom each other and communicate individually.

A researcher from the University of the Andes observing captive woolly monkeys as part of Colombia’s wildlife reintegration program.

Credit: Mónica Ramirez

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To improve predator action, we played noises made by predators like eagles and jaguars, followed by other monkeys’ alarm sobs, so that the captive woolly monkeys would discover to acknowledge them as a risk.

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After the training duration, the 6 fittest monkeys were launched into the Huila forest reserve, a location with adequate food and security from hunters. 2 were juveniles. 4 were grownups.

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All used collars that tracked their place and tape-recorded their habits to examine the monkeys’ adjustment procedure.

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In the beginning, we offered some food for the freshly reestablished monkeys. After 5 months they were weaned off totally.

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A year after the 6 monkeys were launched, 2 had actually been regained due to the fact that they were having a hard time to adjust, investing excessive time on the forest flooring and reluctant to bond with their troopmates.

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2 had actually gone missing out on. And 2 passed away within months– one after falling from a tree and another of strange causes.

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Undoubtedly, those aren’t terrific outcomes.

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We believe the issue might have been the place. The Huila nature reserve has enough fruit to feed the monkeys, however it gets rather cold there. In low temperature levels, your body utilizes a great deal of energy to heat itself. Possibly their self-feeding abilities weren’t adequately established for them to take in sufficient calories.

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Group cohesion was likewise low in this accomplice, triggering some people to break away from their group– a hazardous thing to perform in the jungle.

The forests of Huila, Colmbia, where the first cohort of rehabilitated woolly monkeys were released into the wild in 2017.

The forests of Huila, Colmbia, where the very first accomplice of fixed up woolly monkeys were launched into the wild in 2017.

Credit: Jaime Hernando Duarte/flickr, CC BY

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Our task demonstrates how hard it is to bring back threatened primate populations.

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However we require to keep attempting. Over half of all Colombia’s 30 approximately primates types remain in threat of going extinct, according to Diana Guzman, president of the Colombian Primatology Association.

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Their death would have serious ecological repercussions. South American primates have actually been revealed to consume, absorb and distribute every day about 2 million seeds per square mile of environment– an essential environmental service for Colombia’s tropical forests.

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Colombia does not have sufficient animal sanctuaries and zoos to home the countless primates regained from smugglers every year. Lots of are euthanized, “reintroduced” into improper environments and even returned to the black market. The fortunate couple of that are taken into captivity typically suffer from heart problem, weight problems, behavioral interruptions and mental damage– conditions connected to an inactive way of life and insufficient diet plan.

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Comprehensive, long-lasting primate rehab and reintroduction programs like ours– which is moneyed by the Colombian federal government and the not-for-profit Primate Preservation, Inc.– are expensive. We invest about $5,000 per monkey transplanted.

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However fixing up and launching took animals is far less expensive, and method more ecologically proper, than keeping them behind bars for a life time. And ours is among the couple of primate reintegration programs of its kind in Latin America.

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In November 2018, we launched our 2nd accomplice of 6 fixed up monkeys, consisting of one female monkey regained last time.

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This time, we picked the Rey Zamuro nature reserve, in the Meta Colombia area. The jungle there has warmer weather condition and likely a higher food supply, and we are confident they can develop themselves there.

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Up until now, the Meta Colombia troop appears to be succeeding, especially in group bonding.

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We’ll keep signing in on them all year, knowing from their experiences to assistance generations of rewilded woolly monkeys to come.

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Mónica Alejandra Ramírez, PhD Prospect on Primate Ecology, Universidad de los Andes ; Manuel Lequerica Tamara, Doctoral prospect, University of Sydney, and Pablo Stevenson, Partner Teacher, Department of Environmental Sciences, Universidad de los Andes

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This short article is republished from The Discussion under an Innovative Commons license. Check out the initial short article. Follow all of the Professional Voices problems and arguments– and enter into the conversation– on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views revealed are those of the author and do not always show the views of the publisher. This variation of the short article was initially released on Live Science.

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