Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Primate Behavior

Committee Chair

Jessica Mayhew

Second Committee Member

Rodrigo Renteria-Valencia

Third Committee Member

Sofia Bernstein

Abstract

ABSTRACT

PREPARING THE YUCATAN BLACK HOWLER MONKEY FOR ITS RETURN TO

THE WILD: AN ASSESSMENT OF WILDTRACKS’ APPROACH TO

REHABILITATION AND REINTRODUCTION

by

Blanca Ponce

May 2018

Nearly half of non-human primates are in danger of extinction due to the negative impact of anthropogenic activities. Among the species most negatively affected is the family Atelidae (Di Fiore, Link, & Campbell, 2011). For this reason, non-human primates remain a central focus in global conservation efforts. Some of these efforts include welfare-based rehabilitation, re-introduction, and habitat preservation (Guy et al., 2014). Re-introduction projects have contributed significantly to conservation efforts, improved the lives of individual organism, promoted community education, and conservation values (Baker, 2002). However, Seddon et al. (2007) reveals that often, very little development and post-release monitoring goes into poorly run projects and many fail to establish viable populations (Griffith et al. 1989; Wolf et al. 1996). Re-introduction projects can include animals from diverse backgrounds, including individuals removed from the wild, zoo-raised animals, or animals that have been confiscated from the illegal pet trade (Guy et al., 2014). Because many of these animals’ behaviors have been influenced by humans, many lack the social, behavioral, and ecological knowledge to survive in the wild and therefore must undergo an extensive rehabilitation process to ensure they develop

the appropriate behaviors necessary for their survival in the wild prior to being reintroduced (Cheyne et al., 2008). This study analyzes the effectiveness of the rehabilitation protocols for black howler monkeys (A. pigra) implemented by Wildtracks, a conservation NGO in Belize. In specific, my research is interested in documenting the behavioral differences across different stages in rehabilitation, that arguably these protocols produce, in comparison with the protocols outlined by the IUCN/SSC Re-Introduction Specialist Group. Wildtracks houses monkeys confiscated by the National Forest Department, rehabilitates them, and prepares them for release into the wild. This organization has had a successful rehabilitation program in place for ten years, demonstrating 95% post-release survival rates (P. Walker, personal communication, November 15, 2016). For this reason, Wildtracks serves as a good model to investigate pre-release training methods that result in behavior essential for positive release outcomes.

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