Help save South Africa’s Samango monkeys!
Habitat loss and fragmentation is the greatest threat to primate populations worldwide.
Conservation Interns/Volunteers are needed for a Samango monkey research and conservation project based in the Midlands, Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa.
Further research into the genetics, distribution and behavioural ecology of Samango monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis – sub-species; Cercopithecus albogularis erythrarchus, C. a. labiatus, and Cercopithecus albogularis schwarzi) is needed in order to ascertain the extent to which human intervention has impacted on this species and the forest areas it is dependent on. Further research will enable us to manage and preserve this species.
Five species of primate currently exist in South Africa; the chacma baboon (Papio ursinus), the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops), the greater bush baby (Otolemur crassicaudatus), the lesser bush baby (Galago moholi) and the threatened Samango monkey (Cercopithcus.mitis). The distribution of the Samango is closely correlated with the distribution of Indian Ocean coastal belt, Scarp and Afromontane forests – from the northern most population in the Soutpansberg forests in Limpopo to the southern-most populations in the Amatola forests in the Eastern Cape.
As the samango monkey is restricted to forest habitat and is a seed dispersing species, it is listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book of the Mammals of South Africa (2004) with samango subspecies – C. m. labiatus – occurring on the IUCN (2007) Endangered list making research into populations necessary to identify if management and further protection is needed.
By using non-invasive genetic methods it is possible to identify the genetic structure of a fragmented population, and levels of gene flow between units then assess the need for protection of this species. The primary objective of this proposal is to identify – and compare – the genetic structure of three distinct samango monkey populations in three separate locations to ascertain the levels of gene flow between units.
DNA obtained non-invasively by collecting fecal samples over a period of time (unlimited) can be analyzed in individuals and populations to obtain information on effective population size, parentage, relatedness, sex, dispersal, population structure, population assignment and gene flow. For the purpose of this study, we will focus on collecting DNA fecal samples to gain insight into how the genes, diet and group size of samango monkey populations have been affected by habitat fragmentation.
We will also assess the extent that dispersing samango males are impacted on by human intervention.We will conduct surveys with residents in the area to gain data on the extent that human activity impacts on bachelor samango males.Home ranges of primate species often overlap with areas of high human density and our three protected study sites are representative of this phenomenon. When primate home ranges overlap with areas of high human density, it accentuates the potential for monkeys to be killed by dogs, electrocuted on pylons, run over by vehicles, trapped for muthi, shot, poisoned and to be exposed to anthropogenic food sources. Bachelor samango males dispersing from forest patches are particularly vulnerable to these anthropogenic influences when dispersing without the protection and guidance that a group provides. As a result, bachelor dispersing males may increasingly seek out vervet troops to join up with.
Our findings aim to determine whether management and protection may be needed to further protect the samango monkey and the forests in which this species resides.
Heightening our Senses
Our daily habits in the western world have rendered our senses less acute. Excessive media consumption, multitasking, and out-of-control thoughts affect them greatly. This habit hampers our ability to track wild animals hence one of the things we will focus on is heightening our awareness. By fine-tuning our senses by employing various techniques, we will increase our awareness. This brings us closer to our wilder selves – a part of the psyche we’ve lost while living in the modern world.
Reconnecting with Wilderness
Reconnecting with nature will benefit our relationship to the environment as well. As a result of the “domestication process” we have experienced since birth in the modern world, we are separated from nature physically, mentally and spiritually. This disconnection causes us to easily fall into daily patterns that contribute to harming the planet we rely on to survive.
Volunteers will be housed in self-catering accommodation situated at FreeME, KZN overlooking the uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve. Each volunteer will receive a handbook comprised of course “tools” which include a botany key, animal signs in the area and awareness heightening techniques.