Primates in Agro-Ecosystems

Orangutan in oil palm plantation

Agro-ecosystems are the communities of domestic and wild plants and animals found on agricultural land. This can include large single-species patches of domesticated plants, such as an oil palm plantation; mixed-use landscapes, including forest shade-grown coffee or cacao; or pasture reserved for cattle or other livestock. 

All agro-ecosystems have a wildlife community but – as one might expect – tropical agro-ecosystems are brimming with biodiversity. One study1 found at least 57 different primate species living and foraging in agro-ecosystems across the tropics. About half of these species are threatened with extinction, demonstrating the importance of these landscapes for primate conservation.

Having primates in your garden or farm can be problematic for land-owners, and a great deal of research has gone into estimating the economic damage done by primates2, understanding mitigation strategies to reduce crop-feeding3, and reducing human-animal conflict4 that can occur when humans and wildlife live in close proximity. Primatologists are also exploring cultural factors, including perceptions of land-owners towards particular species of primates5, that can shed light on these complex relationships.

Members of the Primates in Agro-Ecosystems working group are interested in helping humans and non-human primates share space in a way that conserves primate species, supports local economics, and respects traditional cultures.

References

1    Estrada A, Raboy BE, Oliveira LC. 2012. Agroecosystems and primate conservation in the tropics: A review. American Journal of Primatology 74: 696-711.

2    Siex KS, Struhsaker TT. 1999. Colobus monkeys and coconuts: A study of perceived human-wildlife conflicts. Journal of Applied Ecology 36: 1009-1020.

3    Hill CM, Wallace GE. 2012. Crop protection and conflict mitigation: Reducing the costs of living alongside non-human primates. Biodiversity and Conservation 21: 2569-2587.

4    Priston NEC, McLennan MR. 2013. Managing humans, managing macaques: Human-macaque conflict in Asia and Africa. In Radhakrishna S et al. (eds). The macaque connection: Cooperation and conflict between humans and macaques, pp. 225-250. Springer.

5          Waters S, Bell S, Setchell JM. 2018. Understanding human-animal relations in the context of primate conservation: a multispecies ethnographic approach in North Morocco. Folia Primatologica 89:13-29.

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