Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Gelada - Climbing

31 July 2017

Categories: Rescue News, Ensessakotteh News

Found only in high altitude regions of Ethiopia, this unique primate is well-adapted to living in a landscape of grassy meadows and steep, rocky cliffs. Their short, stumpy fingers make them highly effective rock climbers, a key skill for a species that sleeps on ledges high up on near-vertical cliffs. As a result of this unique natural history, our geladas (Theropithecus gelada) pose some unique challenges regarding rehabilitation and release.

While the road through the rehabilitation process can vary widely for each individual that comes into our care, the goal is always the same: ready the individual as much as possible to face the challenges they will encounter in the wild.

A standard pre-release enclosure for primates may include various branches at different levels, some of which will be secured at one end by rope to ensure they move and bend when climbed on. This is important for species such as vervets and baboons, which use trees to gather food and escape predators, to relearn how to balance on unpredictable and flexible branches and to strengthen their muscles ahead of release. However, for a species that is predominantly ground-living these ‘standard enclosures’ were not sufficient for the final stage of rehabilitation.

With this in mind, the animal care team at Ensessa Kotteh in Ethiopia have built our rescued geladas their very own climbing wall - with only a few hiccups communicating this slightly unusual request to a local builder. It may not win any architectural awards or be the biggest wall but we are working to further improve what we can offer the geladas in our care.
They were not sure what to make of it at first. This isn’t surprising given the young age most of the animals living at the Centre were taken from the wild. The wall’s handholds were confusing and its texture was rough on the pads of their hands and feet. However, they soon found their feet and were up and around the wall, jumping off from increasing height and testing each step as they went.

This wall is their final lesson. They have learned to communicate with members of their own species, formed bonds, learned their place within a hierarchy, learned how to find the sweetest blades of grass and now how to navigate difficult terrain.

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

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