Primate and Predator Project Annual Report 2021

The Primate and Predator Project Annual Report 2021 highlights our major achievements and developments from the past year. These would not be possible without supporters such as you. Thank you for your on-going support for our work and for wildlife conservation in and around the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa.
If you have any questions about the report, the PPP or our upcoming plans, please feel free to get in touch.

Panthera Leopard Monitoring Report 2020

The Primate and Predator Project are currently gearing up for the 2021 Panthera leopard monitoring survey. Unfortunately, due to the lockdown experienced here in South Africa, we were not able to complete the full survey in 2020, but are looking forward to a great survey this year.

Please see attached the full report for more information regarding the 2020 survey.

A big thank you to Panthera staff for your help and guidance and all of the landowners that allow us access to your land.

Primate and Predator Project Annual Report 2020

The Primate and Predator Project 2020 Annual Report is now available online. We would like to thank each and everyone of you for your support in 2020. The project is by no means a standalone venture and without your support, none of what has been accomplished, would be possible. We are looking forward to an exciting, productive year ahead.

Should you wish to follow updates on the project, please do so by visiting our Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter account.

If you have any queries or questions regarding the annual report or the Primate and Predator Project, please free to get in touch.

Here’s to an exciting 2021.

Thanks

Russell, Chris, Luke and Cyrintha

Primate and Predator Project 2019 Annual Report

Dear PPP Supporter,

We would like to share the PPP Annual Report for 2019, below.

The document highlights our major achievements and developments from the past year. These would not be possible without supporters such as you. Thank you for your on-going support for our work and for wildlife conservation in and around the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa.

I hope that you will continue to follow the project’s progress in 2020 through our Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter.

If you have any questions about the report, the PPP or our upcoming plans, please feel free to get in touch.

Kind Regards

Chris, Luke & Cyrintha

2019 Primate and Predator Project Annual Report

 

Removing baboon collars….the view from the hide!

As you will have seen from the post on our recent publications, we have previously collared baboons here at the Primate and Predator Project. Female baboons were selected for collaring as they do not disperse from the group like males. Our objective was to compare the movement patterns of predators and the baboons and enhance our understanding of the baboons’ landscape of fear.  In order to detect predator-prey interactions, GPS collars equipped with proximity sensors designed to detect the UHF ID tags that were deployed on the resident baboon groups were deployed on leopards.  Not all of these ‘proximity’ collars dropped off, however, and so we have been working to remove the final collars from the animals.

Two attempts were made in 2019 to remove collars that were no longer functioning. The PPP are fortunate to have a permanent large trap comprising cricket netting. We also set out four large cage traps. The big trap and the four cages are all manually closed by means of pulling a string which is attached to the doors.  This is important since it means we only set off the trap when it contains the animals we are after.

Trapping only takes place when we are fortunate enough to have a vet present on site. To prepare, we check that there are no holes in the trap, ensure the doors are running smoothly on the cage traps and pre-bait the entire area a few days before the actual capture. The area is pre-baited with corn to ensure that the group becomes habituated to coming inside the trap and cages. There are also two hides which are set up, one next to the big trap and one closer to the cages, for the people who are manning the traps to stay hidden. As we are dealing with smart creatures, we need to sit in the hides for the few days during pre-baiting, to ensure the baboons become habituated to the people’s presence in the hides. These hides are small and can get extremely warm or extremely cold. They are not the most comfortable place to be sat for 4 hour sessions, twice daily, but such a privilege to be able to observe these creatures so close in their natural environment.

The baboon’s movements and arrival at the trapping area are mostly dictated by sunrise and sunset and their chosen sleep site and its proximity to the site. Once the vet has arrived and we are ready to capture, mornings start at 04h40 to ensure that the traps and cages are set up and we are ready in the hides waiting for the baboons arrival. As the habituated group is so large, typically they arrive in waves of animals up until about 08h30. The afternoons capture sessions are started again at about 15h30 until sunset.

Once the baboons start to come into the area and traps, you need to be silent as some of the collared animals are subordinate females, so are slightly skittish and get chased off by the dominant males. The area gets incredibly busy once the baboons arrive due to the ‘free’ food; it has been so dry up on the mountain and so any food that is available is readily snatched up.

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Decisions regarding whether to the close the trap are based on the presence of a target animal as well as the other animals present so as to minimize the potential stress and impact on animal welfare. Once the target animal is in a trap and the trap is triggered the vet darts the animal to sedate it. Once anaesthetized, the baboon’s cheek pouches are emptied to prevent it choking on the corn it consumed. The animal and personnel working on the sedated animal are then covered using a tarpaulin to ensure that no other group members can see what is happening. Once the cheek pouches are checked, the vet ensures that the animal is stable and the collar is removed. This process takes about 5 minutes. Due to the drug interactions, about 20 minutes needs to be given before the animal is given the reversal drug. Once the animal is fully awake, it is released back into the group.

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A year in South Africa

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My name is Rebekah and I am a Primate research assistant at PPP.

Working with PPP so far has been life changing for me. I thought I would struggle to find an opportunity that would allow me to experience the career path that I would like to take, however working here has surpassed my expectations entirely.

Life as a Primate assistant can be a challenge, but there is nothing better than the feeling of completing a challenging week and knowing that all your hard work is going towards supporting an incredible project. The early morning starts (as early as 3:30AM!) during the summer months, can be the most difficult challenge to overcome. However, seeing the beautiful sunrise does make it worthwhile, watching the rays of sunrise splash across the canopy is mesmerizing and something I have not had the privilege of seeing anywhere else.

Day to day life of a primate assistant can consist of a multitude of activities. The main event being following a group of Samango monkeys. It really is a special opportunity to be able to follow such a habituated group and get so close to observe them. The juveniles are my absolute favourite to observe. They are always so curious and like to climb onto a nearby branch and watch what you are doing, while tilting their heads from curiosity, which makes them look even more adorable. However, be careful…..although it may not be in a published paper, they love to wee and poo on your head!! Ensure you don’t sit underneath what we call a ‘poo branch’, otherwise you will smell for the rest of the day. It is not pleasant, I can tell you from experience! Other activities can vary from vegetation plots as we study how the vegetation across the mountain can change over the course of a year to helping PhD students with their projects.

Living in bush camp is very different from living at home with the nearest shop over an hour away. Shopping for two weeks can be a challenge and you must be organised and plan ahead. Waking up and walking past a Bush baby or a Bush buck on the side of the road is something you will not experience back home and something I will never forget.

There are a multitude of activities to do at PPP during your spare time; hiking up nearby mountains, taking a trip up to the patches on top of the cliff or using your holiday time to take a trip to Cape Town. There are some very cool places to go swimming with giant waterfalls that you can climb on and sit under. One of my favourite social activities on the mountain is during the weekend or when there is a birthday to celebrate, we usually pick a theme for a party, dress up for the theme and cook a specific style food. It is a fun activity that gets everyone involved and provides a really relaxed social atmosphere for managers and assistants to get together and talk outside of working hours. It is also a great opportunity to show off your cooking skills:) Maybe even cook a meal that you might not have a chance to do within the week, whilst you are working, and to experience the food that others cook.

I have loved my time at PPP, working with primates for the first time has been so exciting with everyday bringing a new challenge and something I have not experienced before.  Whether it’s spotting a new animal or discovering a new part of the mountain (when the monkeys decide to go on a bit of an adventure), it’s all new exciting experiences. I have met so many new people from all over the world who I will never forget and they will always be my bush camp family.

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A month in the life of a short term primate and predator assistant

 

Upon arriving at the Primate & Predator Project a little over a month ago, I have experienced a welcome and encouraging environment, provided through the excellent tutelage of project managers, PPP staff, researchers and other interns alike. A wealth of knowledge is available to anyone willing to venture out and experience working life in the bush; this project offers positions to aspiring students keen on working with wild populations, contributing to international conservation efforts. Leopard, baboon, samango and vervet monkey, crowned eagle, honey badger, galago, and aardvark are just some of the charismatic species here at Lajuma.

Bush Camp is situated high in the Soutpansberg mountains and days are full and bursting with things to do. As a primate assistant; following Samango monkeys is a vital part of the work, ‘follows’ consist of shadowing habituated groups from dawn until dusk, scan sampling behaviours and observing individuals, providing data for long term research. Spending significant lengths of time with the animals creates a bond and closeness to wild primates, that is undoubtedly unique. An exclusive biome with endemic flora and fauna, secluded along a montane mist belt forest, offers an exceptional opportunity to study primates, predators and much more.

As a new addition to the project, I have much to learn, that being said; my time has been carefully conducted providing a plethora of experiences thus far. How does a week look for me? Starting Tuesday, my week begins with three follow days, followed by two utilised to office work, vegetation sampling, predator hikes, phenology and other miscellaneous tasks. Evenings and weekends (Sunday-Monday) are dedicated to socialising with like minded people allowing for rest and relaxation; with the opportunity to explore hiking trails, waterfalls, wildlife and the incredible vista views. Biweekly trips to town are provided, where you can find “home” equivalents along with anything else you may need.

The PPP is a unique place with a distinctive atmosphere, time here is therapeutically calm and moves at a gentle pace, underpinned by a shared comradery toward a united goal. If you’re open to new experiences, are willing to work hard, and be versatile, this is a superb chance to see South Africa at its finest. I thoroughly recommend the Primate & Predator project to any hopeful volunteers keen to gain real-world experience, at an endemic location, irreplaceable to an already special country.