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viernes, 14 de marzo de 2014

Monkey Business

Over the last few months the Para La Tierra Primate Project has been evolving. As we spend more and more time with the capuchin groups we are starting to see changes in their behavior. Several times, volunteers and myself have been fortunate enough to witness natural behaviors such as play and foraging. This time last year, this would never have been possible as the monkeys attention would always have been focused directly on us – performing threat displays and alarm calling. Of course, this still happens but there are definite signs that the groups are becoming used to the presence of the Primate Team. We have recently managed to produce the first map of how the capuchins are using the reserve. The color of the map shows how often the capuchins are found in that area – the red being the places they are found the most (see below). This has allowed the Primate Project to move in an exciting new direction. We now run different studies of the capuchin population – each one designed to teach different primatological field techniques. Learning about primates from books and lectures is very interesting, but studying them in their natural environment is something completely different. For me, the main goal of the PLT Primate Project is to give people the chance to learn about primatology while having the excitement of seeing these amazing animals in the wild. The best part of my job is getting to watch the wonder on a new volunteer’s face the first time they see the small yellow and brown monkeys leaping from tree to tree. If you come down to Paraguay and join us, you will spend your days in the Atlantic Forest – one of the world’s most biodiverse, and most endangered habitats. Six days a week, the Primate Team walk the Atlantic Forest trails searching for the monkeys. If you are lucky, not only will you get to see our noisy, curious and intelligent capuchins but maybe you will get a glimpse of our elusive Black-&-Gold Howler monkey females or maybe even be the first to find a male. When you find the monkeys you will collect data using different methods for our range of projects. You will search the system of Atlantic Forest trails looking for the capuchin troops. During this search you will learn the best methods for locating wild primates in their natural habitats both through visual and audio cues. Once the group has been located you will perform a scan of every visible monkey and record what individuals you can see (if you can identify different individuals), age, sex and behavior so that we can see how their behavior changes as they become more habituated. You will record vocalizations using a directional microphone and participate in a cognitive study using camera traps. As well as all of this you will spend time cutting trails in the forest, take part in discussions of scientific literature and recent developments in primatology and other areas of biology. It’s far from all “work” and no play at PLT. Volunteering at Laguna Blanca your friends will become your temporary family and friendships built here will last a lifetime. You can kayak across the lake and watch the spectacular sunset, dance barefoot in the red sand at a party in one of the local communities (an experience almost impossible to describe to someone who has never been here) or simply just sit on the porch sharing a beer and stories. Come down to Laguna Blanca and experience all of this for yourself! Until next time, Becca