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Welcome to Noga and Sam Shanee's "Neotropical Primate Blog"
(For the latest updates please see the "News" section below)

There are 132 species of monkey in South and Central America, monkeys can be found throughout the neotropics (New world tropics) from southern Mexico in the north to northern Chile in the south and from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts. They range in size from the tiny pygmy marmoset (100 grams) to the muriqui of south eastern Brazil (10 kilograms). Primates have a complex social life, they are very intelligent and beautiful creatures. Many primate species are facing a very real danger of extinction in the near future. Some species are down to less then 250 individuals, which means they could disappear in just a few years.
Primates are very important for the health of the forests that they live in. By acting as seed dispersers for the plants of the forest and by being both prey and predator for many other animal species they help maintain the ecosystem.
The main threats to the survival of primate species are ever growing human populations and their demand for food and land. This leads to massive forest clearance for farming, mining, road construction and logging as well as hunting. The current level of resource use is completely unsustainable and has disastrous consequences, not only for wildlife but also human populations, both locally and globally.
Primates are hunted for a number of reasons, such as; for bush meat, damaging and eating crops and for the pet trade, even though it is often illegal. In almost all cases pet monkeys suffer from inadequate care and stimulation; lacking company, natural foods, exercise and freedom. They are also often physically and mentally abused. It is very important to conserve all primates in their natural habitat, not only so future generations of humans will know them, but as sentient beings they also have the right to live freely.
Primates have comparatively slow reproduction rates and generally only live in primary forest, meaning they are often among the first animals to disappear with the expansion of human populations. By conserving primates and their habitats you also conserve all other animals and plants in the area. Their charm and close resemblance to people helps make them good ambassadors for conservation.



Yellow Tailed Woolly Monkeys in Peru
We are currently working with "The Woolly Monkey Project" and "IKAMA Peru", on a pilot study of the actual status of the yellow tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) which is only found in the foothills of the north eastern Peruvian Andes. Where the Amazon rain forest meets the mountains there is a band of cloud forest which is one of the richest eco-systems in the world and is home to the critically endangered yellow tailed woolly monkey.
For the last month we have been in the Alto Mayo Valley, San Martin state. The rate of human immigration and deforestation in O. flavicauda habitat is extremely high. The settlers are generally coming form areas in the high Andean sierra where they have been forced to leave because of over population and environmental degradation. Both problems are currently being repeated in this area.
Even though we are in a biodiversity hot-spot working with a critically endangered monkey species which should be a conservation priority we see very little effective conservation work on the ground.

Last week we encountered a very young O. flavicauda in a family's back garden tied to pile of rubbish. He had no water to drink and was feed only on green bananas and kitchen scraps, a very different diet from what he would eat in the wild. We are trying to get the family to hand him over to the rescue center run by IKAMA Peru before it will be too late, as most monkeys will not survive long in these conditions.
The aim of our current study is to provide information on the real situation of O. flavicauda to be used in setting up a much larger, long term community based conservation initiative run by a new charity named "Entropika". We are being generously funded by; IPPL-UK, The Monkey Sanctuary Trust and AAP.


The Woolly Monkey Project
Little is know about the impact of subsistence hunting within protected areas and indigenous land in the Colombian Amazon, so it is critical to obtain long-term baseline information on the abundance and distribution of hunted mammals, in order to propose conservation actions to run alongside the Colombian National Parks System. With the aim of meeting these information requirements, The Woolly Monkey Project (A community-based research project in the Colombian Amazon) started census work to provide a baseline for future monitoring by assessing the status of primates and other animals hunted for food in the Southern part of Amacayacu National park (Colombian Amazon), an area intensively exploited by people from the Tikuna indigenous communities. Apart from this the Woolly Monkey Project is also involved in community education work and helps provide alternative income to people in the area. The project also maintains close ties with Dr Sarah Bennet who runs a shelter for monkeys rescued from the pet trade.

Fundacion Entropika
Fundacion Entropika is a new charity set up by a group of conservationists based in Amacayacu National Park in the extreme south of the Colombian Amazon. The charity aims to contribute to the long-term conservation of tropical biodiversity by facilitating local community-led projects, establishing programmes of education and investigation and, most importantly, working closely with the local indigenous people to help preserve the forest. This new charity will work closely with the woolly monkey project and ourselves in future conservation of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey.
Entropika UK forms the fundraising arm of the charity, with its launch in June 2007 with a conference on sustainability, climate change and tropical biodiversity held at high-profile venues around the UK and including speakers from the charity and the local indigenous communities of Amacayaku national park.
For more information on Fundacion Entropika and Entropika UK, please contact Angela Maldonado
lllugens@yahoo.co.uk or Liz Tyson lizinlooe@yahoo.com

News

11/06/07:
It has been a long time since our last update. At the moment we are back at home preparing our final report and looking for funding to return to Peru later this year so we can continue with our efforts to conserve the yellow tailed woolly monkey.
A few days after the meeting in La Esperanza we made our first trip to the Los Corrales zone. Un-fortunately we did not encounter any O. flavicauda but did see white bellied spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth) and heard capuchin monkeys (Cebus sp.). The area is amazingly beautiful and still largely forested, so although we didn't manage to find O. flavicauda we are sure that they occur here and are now even more determined to continue working in conservation of this area.
After our return from the field we were sad to hear reports of another O. flavicauda in captivity, this time it was a sub-adult male on display at a public toilet in the bus station. Thankfully the local police, INRENA and IKAMA Peru were able to rescue him and he is now getting used to his new life at the rescue center. At first we thought that the two rescued monkeys could live together in the future but we have just heard that the baby O. flavicauda that we were able to take from La Esperanza village on our last visit there has died. She was given the best care possible but when animals are taken from their mothers at such an early age they are very un-likely to survive.
Before our time in Peru was over we were able to visit the Royal Pool zoo in Lamas, a private zoo run by an English lady. We had been their once before and were so horrified at what we saw we went back to video the conditions of the animals so we could pass the information on to the authorities. Apart from the appalling conditions that the animals are kept in we also found that animals at the zoo are continually bought illegally from local markets to replace animals that have died due to the poor conditions that they live in. In the few weeks between our visits several monkeys, including two common woolly monkeys and one spider monkey, died!
We were also able to visit the floating market of Belen, Iquitos in Loreto department. We went looking for signs of illegal wildlife trade and it wasn't long before we found them. In this one morning we found six species of monkey openly for sale in the street, we also found two kinds of sloth, jaguar and Cayman skins and teeth as well as numerous tropical birds and reptiles. However most disturbing of all was the amount of bush meat for sale, at several of the stalls we found Cayman, howler monkey, woolly monkey and turtle meat for sale. This is a big problem in all areas of the tropics but is usually associated with African countries. However we feel the problem is only going to get worse in Peru if something is not done about it soon.

07/05/07:
Yesterday we had a meeting with delegates from the communities of Yambrasbamba, La Esperaza, Santa Rosa, La Florida, La Union and Perla de Limasa. The meeting was attended by about fifty people and considering their was a football match on in the next village we think this in itself is quite a success. In the meeting we discussed the danger of extinction faced by O. flavicauda, and other species in the area. Then we heard the opinions of local people on how they though they could participate in a conservation program and ways that the local economy could also benefit. Overall the meeting was very positive and we now have lots of work to prepare for our return later this year.
Un-fortunately our spirits were dampened by the discovery of a three month old female baby yellow-tailed woolly monkey being kept as a pet in the village. After over an hour of discussion we were able to take the baby to the IKAMA Peru rescue center here in Moyobamba. The baby is so young that she is un-likely to survive even with the best care possible. We will go and check on her later today.
We also arranged our next field trip, this time to the area of Los Corrales where we hope to help start a community conservation area when we return. If what we have been told is true it is an amazing area not only because of O. flavicauda but many other endangered species including; The cock of the Rock, humming birds, macaws, tapirs and spectacled bears. So hopefully our next up-date will be a good one.



04/05/07:
Back from more field trips. Last week we visited the town of Pitoja near the border of San Martin and Amazonas departments. The walk there took about four hours but it wasn´t so bad as there is a new road being built. Not so bad for walking but very bad for the monkeys. The new road is being built by the logging company COPEFOR (Compania Peruana Forestal) so that they have easier access when logging in the forests of this area. We are not sure how big the logging concession is but we do know that it is in one of the most amazing areas we have been to so far, with loads of intact primary cloud forest. While we were there we went looking for O. flavicauda, we were able to locate two groups from their calls but did not get to see them as our party got separated and we spent over an hour looking for each other.
After this we went straight up to the village of Shipasbamba near Pedro Ruiz in Amazonas department. We met some really interesting people and there seems to be allot of work being done to minimize the impact of agriculture and farming on the environment. Un-fortunately almost all of the forest has gone already. We spent only one day looking for O. flavicauda in a small patch of forest several hours climb from the village. Luckily we were able to find a group of nine (two males, three females, one sub-adult and two juveniles) and spent over an hour and a half with them. We got a lot of great photos and even some video of them, they were very aggressive at first but soon calmed down and went back to resting, feeding and playing, in the end we had to leave so we could arrive back at the village before it got dark. Shipasbamba is definitely on our list of places to return too in the future.


23/04/07:
We have just returned from another field trip to look for the yellow tailed woolly monkey. This time we visited three sites; Chachapoyas, Pomacochas Lake and the Gocta waterfalls, all in Amazonas state.
First we went to Chachapoyas, the area itself is probably too high for the presence of Oreonax and is almost completely deforested, but we had several meetings with government departments and local NGO's which helped us gather valuable information for future conservation work. Secondly we visited the Gocta waterfalls, our local guide told us that these are the third highest waterfall in the world! we don't know if this is true but they are pretty impressive. We spent a couple of days in the forest looking for Oreonax. Although we were unable to find them we are sure that they are present in the area as many local people identified them from the photos and descriptions that we gave. We also found evidence of their presence in the form of half eaten fruits that bore tooth marks of large primates. It is surprising that they are still found in the area, as there is very little forest surrounding the waterfalls themselves, which highlights the need for further study of this species in the area. Lastly we visited Pedro Ruiz, next too Pomacochas lake, un-fortunately we didn't have enough time to check the area ourselves but we have been told that Oreonax is still present in the forested areas higher up from the lake. We also got information on a number of other sites in the area where we plan to visit later in our trip.
On the trip back we stopped in the village of La Esperanza, near the site of our first encounter with Oreonax. We spoke with many villagers from the area and have arranged a meeting where we will hear from the villagers and present our own ideas on how best to conserve the species in this area whilst also benefiting the local economy.


13/04/07:
On the 13th of April we encountered our first group of O. flavicauda in the wild. The encounter took place one Km from the village of Santa Rosa, Amazonas Department, in highly disturbed primary forest. The monkeys noticed us first and started alarm calling, this behaviour helped us locate and follow them. During the one hour encounter, we noticed a female spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth) that was moving together with the group, this was a very surprising discovery as such associations between these species has never been recorded before. Now that we have a confirmed sighting of an Oreonax group and have heard from local people about the presence of many more groups in the area we want to establish a biodiversity corridor to link the Bosque Protecion do Alto Mayo to the protected Cordilla de Colan reserve to the west. This will include the area of our sighting. Together with developing alternative sources of income and conservation education work in the local communities, we think this will be of great benefit to the species. The best part is that the local communities have shown a lot of interest in participating in a conservation initiative. Poverty in the area is very high and deforestation rates have started to seriously endanger the income of families in the area, it has come to the point where people understand that they have to find alternatives for the future.
Sad news abut baby Juanito, the baby Oreonax we found in someones garden a couple of weeks ago. We tried get the local authorities, and some organisations, to help confiscate him, but unfortunately Juanito died before we were able to do so. We hope that this will illustrate to the other villagers one of the major problems of taking young animals from the wild. We also heard about two other Oreonax babies being kept in peoples houses but we were unable to find them. Also we found a young capuchin monkey being kept as a pet in the village of Buenos Aires, the owner said a neighbour sold it to him a few weeks ago after he had killed its mother for stealing corn from his farm.

What's next?
While in Peru we are also researching the possibility of setting up a reserve in Loreto state, near Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon. The idea behind the reserve is not only to protect the animals and plants of the rain forest but also to provide a center for rescuing and rehabilitating animals from the illegal pet trade, as well as being a research center to develop reforestation and reintroduction techniques. The knowledge gained will be offered to local people and scientists alike to improve conservation in other areas.
To achieve this we are in the process of setting up a registered charity to raise funds and promote awareness. We hope this charity will also provide a platform from which to assist local communities to develop new conservation concessions on their lands and to capacitate them to aid in and benefit from conserving their forests and be less dependent on un-sustainable resource use.
We plan to use the red uakari monkey (Cacajao calvus) as a flagship species for our work, because of it's striking appearance and its importance in folk culture.