PRIMATE RESEARCH TEAM
spider monkeys. red howler monkeys. squirrel monkeys. capuchin monkeys. tamarins. night monkeys.
Understanding the behaviour, diet, and home range characteristics
of wild primates in Amazonian Peru
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.
Saddleback tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)
Photo: Chris Kirkby
A primate diet item (Photo: Patrick Campbell)
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 is analysed in R, SPSS, and QGIS. Each week, sampling is undertaken Monday to midday on Saturday, after which everyone is free to relax and explore the local area. Each field site has between 1 and 8 primate groups which are the focus of research. The team has two handheld GPS receivers to collect primate group movement data. Click here for precise details of sampling protocols.
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. Saturday mornings are usually set aside for habitat monitoring, which is undertaken within modified Gentry plots.
Volunteer and Intern
Full board (veg options available) and lodging (shared rooms), scheduled transfers, field training and supervision, research permits, research activities, local Sunday expeditions.
Flights, non-scheduled transfers, clothes washing, rubber boots, rain poncho, personal medical issues.
1 week - US$ 700
2 weeks - US$ 1200
3 weeks - US$ 1650
1 month - US$ 2200
2 months - US$ 3900
3 months - US$ 5000
4 months - US$ 6000
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
Neotropical Rainforest Mammals
A Field Guide (2nd edition)
L. Emmons & F. Feer
Distributions and Phylogeography of
Marc GM Van Roosmalen
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-
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.