This years primate release assessment is well underway and we have currently been collecting data for 12 weeks. Preparations and assessments of suitable candidates for the Centres 5th primate release began early this year and in April a troop of 20 vervet monkeys of various ages and backgrounds were translocated into the pre-release enclosure here at the Centre. The enclosure consists of natural vegetation which allows the monkeys to move around in a natural environment and the various types of vegetation offers a whole range of food types other than the food we provision here at the Centre.
As vervet monkeys are of “least concern” on the IUCN Red List, and the population numbers are stable as a whole, the release is classified as a welfare release, meaning that the overall aim is to significantly improve the welfare of primates that are wild born but currently find themselves in captivity as a result of human-wildlife conflicts. Through the data collected on the troop we will carry out a detailed assessment of each individual in the troop and the data enables us to monitor the cohesion of the troop. This is of great importance as the stability and social bonds amongst members of a vervet monkey troop will affect the troops behaviour when facing predators, other troops of vervet monkeys, as well as the chances of them staying together once released. Furthermore, the data collected both pre- and post-release is used to measure if stress levels do in fact decrease and if quality of life is significantly improved.
As part of the Lilongwe Wildlife Centres Release Program the pre-release troop must undergo predator awareness training which includes the troop members being subjected to potential predators which animals can come across once being released. In the case of vervet monkeys this can for instance be leopards, snakes or birds of prey. For our training we expose our animals to very life like dummies of these species. The responses of each individual troop member and the reaction of the entire troop will be recorded and whenever required this training will be repeated. For the vervets who have never encountered predators in the wild the training offers a learning opportunity from other previous wild vervets on how to react in a potential life threatening situation.
Immediately upon arrival into their new enclosure the troop was led by an adult male, Pops, who has been acting as alpha male ever since. Pops has the respect of his troop members and will often walk along the ground with his tail held high in the air with the troops other males showing signs of submissiveness, while the whole troop will follow him if he goes to a different part of the enclosure. As of now there are not any other males in troop challenging Pops on his status as alpha male.
Facts about Tinker
Arrived at the Centre 10/06/2009
Troop: Pre-Release 2015
Status in the troop: low ranked
Amongst the many characters in the troop is Tinker whom arrived at the Centre more than 5 years ago.
She arrived at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre after having been confiscated outside an African bible college where she was for sale for 3000 MWK (equivalent of 6.5 USD).
Tinker was introduced to the troop in early April after having lived in several other troops in the past. At the onset of integrations Tinker has always responded really well to other conspecifics especially orphaned infants and juveniles, however, due to her very low rank and somewhat nervous personality has never done well with the higher ranking females. After several failed integrations, amongst others her integration into the 2013 pre-release troop, and an injury sustained in her latest troop Tinker was running out of options. It was decided that she would be given one final chance of integration into a troop and that she should be tried out with the rest of this years pre-release candidates.
Tinker has now been living in the troop for 4 months and is currently well on her way to be released back into the wild in 2016. She has been observed grooming most, if not all, other troop members, playing with the younger generations as well as staying in near proximity to both high and low ranked individuals.
Furthermore, Tinker has formed close bonds with several of the juveniles, and spends a lot of her time with May, a juvenile born here at the Centre.
All of us here at the Centre are looking forward to the release of this years pre-release troop into Kasungu National park in January 2016.
Watch this space!