Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Primate Release

On Thursday 3rd October 2013 a team from the Zambia Primate Project, a Born Free Foundation supported project, released 21 rescued vervet monkeys into Kafue National Park, Zambia.

Zambia Primate Release
The release troop arriving at their temporary holding enclosure after a long journey © Cheryl Mvula

On Friday 25th September Dr Chakolwa and his fellow vets from University of Zambia fitted radio collars to the 4 most dominant troop members, 3 adult males and an adult female. Previously the team had cut a nick into each collar and rubbed vegetable oil into the nick to speed up the degradation process. This should ensure that the radio collars will drop off naturally within a year without the need for invasive intervention to remove them. Final health checks were also carried out by the vets to ensure that the troop were in good condition and would not transfer disease to wild populations of monkeys in the release area.

The following day the troop was trapped, one by one, and placed in nine travelling crates in preparation for their journey to Kafue National Park. The whole party arrived at the release site early afternoon on the 27th September and transferred the monkeys into the temporary holding enclosure which had been built for them deep in the bush on the banks of the Shishamba Stream. 

Zambia Primate Release
The release troop in their temporary holding enclosure in the bush © Cheryl Mvula
Zambia Primate Release

The troop spent the next 7 days in their purpose built transit home settling down after the stress of their transfer, reaffirming social bonds and taking in the new sights, sounds and smells of the bush. In this way they were able to gradually acclimatise themselves to their new environment ready for release.

On release day, the 3rd of October, food was first scattered around the perimeter of their transit home and then the door to the enclosure was quietly opened. The monkeys filed out one by one and sat around the enclosure calmly eating fruit and other tasty morsels. For the rest of the day they remained within sight of the holding enclosure as they explored the surrounding bush, before climbing into neighbouring trees to spend the night sleeping under the stars like their wild counterparts – free at last. 

Immediately upon release the Zambia Primate Project field team began monitoring the monkeys, using radio telemetry to locate the troop. Until the rains take hold and there is an abundance of wild foods available the team supplemented the monkeys’ wild diet with fruit and ground nuts as they adapt to foraging for themselves. They will continue to monitor the troop each day for 6 months, and thereafter, at a reduced frequency for a further 6 months. Additionally once a week during the monitoring period the team conduct a health census of the troop to assess their condition, a reflection of their adaptation to the wild, and offer them support if needed. The team will also collect behavioural data to evaluate the success of the release and to inform future release protocols.  

Tracking the released vervets
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

Share | |