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spider monkeys. red howler monkeys. squirrel monkeys. capuchin monkeys. tamarins. night monkeys.

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities
* All training provided *
Understanding the behaviour, diet, and home range characteristics
of wild primates in Amazonian Peru

Team Objectives

The Primate Research Team, headquartered in the city of Puerto Maldonado, is tasked with identifying all primate species living within a 5 km radius of each field site (Note: there are 18 species to be found in the Madre de Dios region of Peru); understanding the activity patterns, behaviour, and diet of conspecific focal groups (including the degree of competition between species for dietary resources); estimating the home range area of focal groups; identifying the factors that explain variation in home range size within and between sites; and identifying the key threats to primates at each site so that these can be addressed with landowners. To date, the focal species for behaviour and home range studies have been Red howler monkey, Peruvian spider monkey, Bolivian squirrel monkey, Brown or Tufted capuchin monkey, and Saddleback tamarin monkey. 

Monkey, Saddleback tamarin (Saguinus fus

Saddleback tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)

Photo: Chris Kirkby 

Primate diet fruit (Patrick Campbell).JP

Methods Used and Skills Taught

The primate sampling methods that our volunteers and interns learn and implement under the leadership and supervision of our professional research coordinators, include GPS-enabled follows of conspecific family groups, mapping of group movements, scan sampling and focal-individual sampling of behaviour, photography, videography, and sound recording. Data analysis and visualisation programs that we use include R, SPSS, Distance, Mark, Estimates, Camera Base, and QGIS. Each field site has between 1 and 8 primate groups which are the focus of research. The team has handheld GPS receivers to collect primate group movement data. 

A primate diet item (Photo: Patrick Campbell)

A Typical Day

Research days are split into morning, afternoon, and some nocturnal sampling sessions. On each research day, two sessions are completed, for a total of around 7 hrs of active field time and data input per day. On most morning sessions, sampling begins at 5:30 am, after a very early breakfast (box breakfast also available), with a swift walk along forest trails and then off trail through thick jungle, in search of one of the focal monkey groups to begin following (potentially the same group that was left at its sleeping tree the previous evening). Once the focal group has been found, then the team will settle down to a gentle process of following the group, with GPS equipment set to tracking more, and periodically collecting behavioural and dietary information on the group. It can sometimes take up to 2 hours to find a focal monkey group to follow, during which time information useful to other teams (such as the geographic location of encounters with other mammal species) is collected. After lunch, between 3:30 pm and 6 pm (sundown), a similar set of activities to that in the morning is undertaken. Photos, videos and sound recordings are frequently taken during group follows, as a way to collect additional information on behaviour. During the nocturnal sampling sessions, the focus of everyone's efforts is on the families of Black-necked night monkeys, which are quite abundant in these forests. Daily schedules are subject to change at the discretion of the team coordinators and depending on current projects and weather. 

An inquisitive Rio Tapajos saki monkey (Pithecia irrorata).

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Volunteer and Intern

Participation Fees


All meals (veg options available) and lodging (shared rooms), scheduled transfers, field training and supervision, research permits, research activities.

Not included

Flights, non-scheduled transfers, clothes washing, rubber boots, rain poncho, personal medical issues.

1 week     -  US$ 576

2 weeks   -  US$ 1092​

3 weeks   -  US$ 1600

1 month   -  US$ 2117

6 weeks   -  US$ 2583

2 months -  US$ 3304

3 months​ -  US$ 4450


Any time of year. We recommend successful applicants arrive in the city of Puerto Maldonado (PEM) on either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday if at all possible. The city is served by daily flights from Lima (LIM) and Cusco (CUZ) via the airlines Latam and Avianca. 

Non-profit Fee Breakdown

Transfers 4% 

Accommodation 18%

Meals 14%

Equipment  4%

Repairs 4% 

Communication 18%

Staff 14%

Profit  0%

Recommended Reading

Field Guides

Book - Neotropical Rainforest

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals

A Field Guide (2nd edition)

L. Emmons & F. Feer

Book Distribution Neotropical Primates.j

Distributions and Phylogeography of

Neotropical Primates

Marc GM Van Roosmalen

Journal Articles

Heymann (1995) Sleeping habits of tamarins, Saguinus mystax and Saguinus fuscicollis (Mammalia; Primates; Callitrichidae), in north‐eastern Peru. Journal of Zoology 237(2):211-226.

Peres (1997) Primate community structure at twenty Western Amazonian flooded and unflooded forests. Journal of Tropical

Ecology 13(3), 381-405.

Di Bitetti (2001) Home-range use by the tufted capuchin monkey (Cebus apella nigritus) in a subtropical rainforest of Argentina. Journal of Zoology 253(1): 33-45.

Endo et al. (2010) Game vertebrate densities in hunted and nonhunted forest sites in Manu National Park, Peru. Biotropica 42(2): 251- 261.

Salvador et al. (2010) Large mammal species richness and habitat use in an upper Amazonian forest used for ecotourism. Mammalian Biology 76(2), 115-123. 

Kjimji et al. (2013) Are rainforest owl monkeys cathemeral? Diurnal activity of Black-headed owl monkeys, Aotus nigriceps, at

Manu Biosphere Reserve, Peru. Primates.

Howes et al. (2013) Sampling effort in Neotropical primate diet studies: Collective gains and underlying geographic and taxonomic

biases. International Journal of Primatology 34: 1081-1104.

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