A guest-blog series: a primate project, Mexico

As of next Friday (25th April) I will be heading a project at Ecoparque el Fenix monkey sanctuary in Campeche, Mexico. As such, my small team will be presenting their experiences in ‘A world of Primates’ guest blog series.


We will be working closely with wild-born pet-raised spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) who have histories within the exploitative illegal primate pet trade. The sanctuary is home to 21 spider monkeys, and as an non-profit organisation they rely on the kind donations of the public for all monkey food, veterinary care, and general husbandry. As with many range-country sanctuaries, some of the conditions are suboptimal as restricted resources do not permit all monkeys to live in large enriched and socially active enclosures. Some of the monkeys we will be working with are tied to trees, in single cages, or are free roaming within the parks boundaries. This project began last year when I conducted a focal observational behaviour study of all the spider monkeys at Ecoparque el Fenix, to assess their present welfare (data to be submitted for publication post thesis submission). Having returned to the UK and analysed the data, I  then prioritised a rehabilitation strategy for each monkey-who would benefit from increased intra-species socialization, who may regress in the face of social-integration but could benefit from enhanced enrichments, and who to prioritise for the building of new enclosures.


DAVE BULL- CONSTRUCTION davith Dave is a qualified and experienced carpenter from West Sussex. Experienced in building timber framed houses and roofing, Dave will be heading the construction team, where he will (along with the help of local volunteers) renovate the old, and construct the new primate enclosures.

ROBYN CAULES- RESEARCH ASSISTANT bam Behavioural data will be collected  throughout each phase of the project: The construction works, translocation between enclosures, and the formation of new social groups. Robyn will assist with the project by collecting behavioural data of the monkeys in a repeat study which we will later compare to the 2013 data to evaluate the progress of our rehabilitation plan.

JESS HOOPER– PROJECT COORDINATORme poster PSGB As well as coordinating this project alongside sanctuary staff, I will be working with Robyn within the comparative study and conducting a second study using Social Network Analysis (SNA) to monitor the progress, and ensure the well being, of each monkey within the newly formed social groups throughout each phase of social integration.


We hope to be blogging and tweeting personally every two weeks when we travel into the city for supplies-but don’t fret! The wonderful media volunteer Beth Nicklinson will be tweeting our work along with other primate facts on the Ecoparque el Fenix twitter page…so remember to follow both myself and the sanctuary!


It is not too late to help this project. A small donation will help towards funding the much needed enclosure materials, which you can do really easily by clicking this link: Spider monkey rescue ateles_geoffroyi

None of the team receive a wage for their work, they all work extremely hard in testing conditions for free and are rewarded by the positive effect their efforts have upon the primates.


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