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Protecting primates

28 July 2011

Slow lorisThe slow loris was released in the forest, at the exact place where he was caught

Researchers at the University’s Field Centre in Malaysia are working on new conservation initiatives aimed at protecting two endangered primate species, the proboscis monkey and the Bornean slow loris.

For the first time, researchers are taking a deeper look into the habits of the Bornean slow loris, a rare primate known for its ability to release toxins through its teeth. It is becoming a rare sight in the jungles of Borneo as its numbers are dramatically declining due to illegal pet and ornamental trade.

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A study launched at the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), funded by the Cleveland Zoo and the Columbus Zoo, will reveal new insights into the species. The research team, including Danica Stark, a primatologist at DGFC and a future Cardiff PhD student, has managed to radio-collar a slow loris, a difficult task as the animal moves high in the jungle canopy.

Krik, named after the clicking, chirping noise he makes, has been released back into the forest and radio-transmitters will be used to monitor where he sleeps and regularly hunts for prey.

A long-term research and conservation programme has also been launched for the protection of the proboscis monkey, a reddish-brown primate with a protruding nose. The programme is jointly initiated by the DGFC, the University and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

proboscis - webProboscis male with the satellite collar around its neck

A 24-kilogram male, caught in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, has become the first of its kind to be fitted with a satellite device. Dr Benoit Goossens, School of Biosciences and DGFC Director, said: "The satellite will help us to fully understand and determine the ranging patterns of the species and factors that may impact their movements and density. This will allow us to determine the adequate amount of habitat available in order to sustain a continuous viable population in the Kinabatangan region."

A total of ten more proboscis monkeys will be fitted with satellite devices and researchers will take blood samples for genetic analyses and parasite identification, saliva for viruses and bacteria, ectoparasites and morphometric data.

These programmes further illustrate DGFC’s commitment to helping wildlife conservationists better understand the habits and habitats of a number of endangered species, including orang-utans, the Bornean banteng, crocodiles and a range of other carnivores.

DGFC is a collaborative research and training facility managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department. Funding from Cardiff allowed the establishment of a research laboratory, a computer room, a library, the acquisition of research equipment and the employment of a Director.

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