In mid-September of 2017, a group of researchers made up of students from different regional centers of the University of Panama, accompanied by Danilo Chiari, Cristóbal Pérez, and Miguel Montenegro, started an interesting journey to the forested lands of the village of Rio Oria, in the District of Pedasí, Province of Los Santos, in the Azuero Peninsula, with the aim of monitoring primates under the supervision of the Azuero Earth Project. This organisation is dedicated to protecting and restoring Azuero’s forested lands. One of the objectives is to establish if the primates’ population has diminished or increased based on a study realized by Natalia Reagan in 2009, called “The effects of forest fragmentation on the distribution of the Azuero Spider Monkey”. Other aims are to update the list of trees considered as primates’ principal diet choices, to observe changes in the forested lands through time, and to determine strategic areas for forest conservation.
These enthusiastic researchers had the opportunity of learning about three species of primates from our country: The White Faced Capuchin Monkey (Cebus capucinus), the Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), and the principal actor of the study, the Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis). This last one has a diet principally based on fruits, leading their feces to play an important role in seed dispersal and fertilization, reason for which they are considered excellent actors in forest restoration. In addition, the researches learned to differentiate individuals by their sex and age, as well as recognizing with the common names and scientific names the trees in which these primates were found. The challenges they faced were of great importance for their personal and professional growth, and it was mentioned as well with a slight touch of humor, that these challenges were also of a physical nature, since regardless of the reward that the finished study brought to the researchers, there were difficult moments in the field such as crossing rivers, walking for long hours, climbing steep hills, and bug bights.
One of the unforgettable adventures that we went through, was interacting with the community to raise awareness on these primates and their importance within the forests they inhabit, as well as the way in which we can differentiate them and how the community can get involved with the different reforestation projects amongst other topics. Between the 22nd and the 26th of January of 2018, the group visited the regions of Nuario, La Miel, Playa Venao, Los Asientos, Oria Arriba and Pedasí. In each of these regions, the communities seemed strongly interested with the topics presented, even sharing information with the researchers that would be relevant for the investigation and to implement more efficient conservation strategies. Some of the topics that were suggested were the importance of corridors between forests to allow the passage of primates, the possibility of the existence of the Gray-Bellied Night Monkey (Aotus lemurinus), and the benefit of commercializing tourism with “monkey watching”.
Presently, the team finished the field work and is starting to analyze their findings for publication. We would like to thank Primate Conservation Inc. (http://www.primate.org/) for their support in this study which will contribute to the wellbeing of this species and to the improvements of future academic investigations on wildlife through the help of student researchers in this region.
You can also contribute by providing information on Spider Monkeys that inhabit your “fincas” or around your houses, by coming to visit our office in Pedasi, or contacting us via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com, or by telephone: 995-2995.
If you would like to provide a contribution of another kind, you can also donate through the following link: http://proecoazuero.org/donate-aep/
“Let’s protect the Spider Monkey and they will conserve the forests”
– Cristóbal Pérez