ELEVATION REVELATIONS: STUDYING HOW VERVET TROOPS USE TREES

Recent research volunteer Alana Lester has been studying Tao’s troop for her dissertation. She’s comparing the behaviours of the troop in rehabilitation with one of the troops of wild vervet monkeys that live in the forest around Lilongwe Wildlife Centre.

This offers a unique context to study a captive and wild troop that live close to each other, essentially sharing the same habitat. The aim is to better understand how ready Tao’s troop is to live back in the wild!

Through sixty hours of observation, Alana looked at how and to what extent the behaviours of Tao and his troop are mirroring the behaviours of the wild troop. One of her main points of comparison is looking at how the two troops make use of the tree canopy and other elevation. She’s seen that Tao’s troop is more vigilant than the wild troop, for example in their use of the tree canopy – but also in their body language and alarm calling. Vigilance is obviously important to survival, so it’s encouraging that Tao and his troop are displaying these behaviours.

The wild troop spends more time on the ground than Tao’s troop – this is slightly riskier behaviour but may speak to a greater confidence in their environment, or having more space to roam in.

Alana also observed that Tao’s troop has abundant resources in its enclosure and is more alert while protecting those resources – again, another positive behaviour that bodes well for the troop once they are fending for themselves back in the wild.

These findings helped to inform our pre-release strategy for Tao’s troop, who are about to begin their new lives back in the wild!