MEET MARTA: A PORTUGUESE RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Marta Miguel

Five years after her first volunteer experience with us, Marta finds herself back at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre.

Each work day Marta observes a pre-release vervet troop. This consists of 19 monkeys which came into LWC’s care for various reasons: pet trafficking, road accidents, those who had been orphaned. The recent addition of a baby takes the troop number up to 20 primates in total. 

Marta is able to identify each of the animals individually by their quirks; her work has heightened her attention to detail. Each day she spends hours tracking the monkeys’ behaviours – with themselves, their surroundings and, socially, with each other – to help determine when they will all be ready to be released back into the wild together. The vervets tend not to interact with humans who come to their enclosure, but they are aware when someone new is in their midst and they have learned to recognise Marta.

The observation period begins approximately six months before release and continues for six months post release, where another research assistant monitors their reintegration at the new site. The primates are observed to ensure that they are fit to survive in the wild but also for research to ensure as much success with all future releases. The monkeys are fitted with tracking collars before being released so that their activities can be monitored post release. 

Marta tries not to get attached to the troop: they need to have as limited contact with humans as possible and to spend as much time together in order to help them unite and learn to be self-sufficient. She gains great satisfaction from seeing a troop do well after their release.

Marta recording observations
Marta volunteer recording vervet interactions
Marta volunteer observing vervets