Monkey Forest Tales: How the Zocay Project started and growth


In March 2004, I start a small project in which I would describe and count the monkey’s species present in a cattle ranch farm. I friend and colleague had introduced me to the landowner who was curious to know what monkeys where present in his farm. The idea was to estimate primate’s densities for a period of six months.

What I didn’t know at that moment was that this small project will become my long-term research project. A project that has lasted 15 years and have given me a lot of life lessons, hundreds of research questions, some good friends and a continuous strength to live the life that I dreamed despite many challenges and economic constraints.

After the first six month finished, farmers in the neighborhood started to ask if I can tell them which monkeys’ they have in their farms, and I started to visit other farms in the area and its forest.

In 2008, I had the fortune to make a small talk in town with farmers in the area to show them what my research has found and thanks to that the owner of a private reserve in the area allows me to start monitoring the monkeys’ population of what seems to be the largest forest fragment in the area (around 1100 ha).

Therefore, what it looks to be a six-month project to study monkeys’ densities evolved to a long-term project in which densities (how many animals are in a forest area) and group composition (how many of them are females, males (adults and babies)) is continuously monitored in at least seven forest fragments for the last 15 years.

In another post I will explore some of the challenges to maintain this long-term project, such as funding and the trust that need to be built with the landowners and local workers to be able to continue working as a woman in an area dominated by man.

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