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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Important Monkey Business

Important Monkey Business

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, June 15, 2015/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, environment

       Wild Chimpanzee Eating Fruit  (credit:  Conservation International , Russell Mittermeier)

Primates are a very diverse lot. From Madagascar's unique lemurs; to shy mountain gorillas inhabiting African highlands; to the social chimpanzees that informed early animal behavior studies; to strange alpine monkeys that "cultivate" high mountain meadows: to humans that exist everywhere, primates show the diversity that evolved from this large group of mammals. A new primate policy, a research endeavor, and an ecotourism project are worth noting.

In an important policy decision, the  US Fish & Wildlife Service  has just placed captive and wild chimpanzees on the endangered species list. The decision has wide ranging implications for protection of wild chimps and for medical laboratories that have used the apes for research testing. Dr. Jane Goodall, one of the first primate biologists, first demonstrated that wild chimps in Tanzania maintained complex social behaviors and utilized tools, an attribute considered unique to humans. In commenting on the Service's decision, she said:

“I wish to congratulate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the decision to include captive chimpanzee in the endangered listing along with wild chimpanzees. It is a tremendously significant decision which will be welcomed by everyone concerned with the well-being of our closest living relatives. Thank you for helping to make their world a better place.”

In an African environment more frigid than tropical, research on a rare monkey is underway. Gelada monkeys , possibly related to baboons, are only found in the Afro-alpine zones of the  Ethiopian Highlands . Reaching  nearly 15,000 feet high, the isolated mountains have protected the endemic primates who "tend" the alpine grasslands like a garden. The geladas have a developed a very strange, almost symbiotic partnership, with Ethiopian wolves that also inhabit the same alpine zone.  New Scientist   has published new findings showing how the monkeys displace rodents, as they groom the grasses, and how the wolves gain an easy food source. The wolves don't bother the monkeys and move freely through their herds almost like domesticated dogs. Some of this ground-breaking field research is being conducted by a PhD candidate at Penn State University and recipient of a grant for the next generation of explorers provided by the National Geographic Society  .
                                       Gelada Monkeys, Ethiopian Highlands (credit: Wiki-commons)

A video shows the  mutualism  that has developed between the monkeys and the wolves in the alpine highlands:

Proper conservation policies and cutting-edge research are always important but ecotourism, bringing visitors to observe endangered animals, offers much to support conservation goals. By creating jobs as game wardens, wildlife guides, and at bush guesthouses, local villagers see strong and positive reasons to protect the wild primates (and other animals) in their midst. 

In far southwestern Uganda is   Mgahinga Gorilla National Park  . The park straddles the border next to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Virunga was made famous by a  documentary film  about wildlife conservation in that park. The focus at Mgahinga is the critically endangered  mountain gorilla  thought to number less than 1000 in the wild.
                                              Mountain Gorilla, central Africa    (credit: WWF   )

According to a Uganda news report: "Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, is the smallest among Uganda’s wild game parks but with rich attractions and a variety of animal species, including; the mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, elephants, antelopes and buffaloes."  Trained park guides help the human visitors experience the wonder of these primate relatives and in the process help their protection.

Good policies, advanced field research, and appropriate tourism combine to ensure long-term preservation for all these primates. They also offer an education to the one primate that now affects them all.


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