Monkey Forest Tales: How the COVID-19 is affecting this project?

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I apologize for missing last week’s post. As it is happening to most of all due to COVID-19 some of my priorities changed a bit. In today’s post, I want to talk about how the pandemic had impacted this project. As mentioned in previous posts, this is a project run not only with personal funds but also limited to a few people. Most people working at the moment in the project are undergraduate students, therefore with the limited movement allowed to us due to our national lockdown, most of their projects are stopped.
Additionally, I am also not allowed to travel, so data collection for our long term monitoring of monkey populations in the study area is also stopped. As our last field trip was in February, we were allowed to count the new babies from this year’s season of Colombian squirrel monkeys and dusky titi monkeys. However, since then, there has not been any data collected in the study area. Apart from local people reports in some farms, where the monkeys have been seen near to the houses in May.
As part of the goals of this project for 2020, we started some monitoring of Colombian squirrel monkeys in Villavicencio city, the biggest city in the region, and although with difficulty because of the movement restriction we have at the moment, some data collected on some groups with less periodicity that we used to do in San Martin area.
At the beginning of this project, back in 2004 -2005, I tried to train some local younger people as field assistants, teaching them basic data collection techniques, however as time passes and with the continuous changing of workers in the farms where this project is focused, people trained moved to other farms at the beginning and to other towns later, making more difficult to have locals as field assistants.
So, with the situation we are living at the moment it seems even more important for us to start implementing a more effective way to collect our long term monitoring data to allow us to continue to monitor monkeys populations despite the limitations we are facing at the moment.
In addition to the concerns related to our restrictions at the moment to collect data, there are the possibility that our travelling to the study area can affect the local people and monkeys due to the virus spread. COVID-19 is a virus that has the ability to move across species and therefore it is a potential risk for monkey populations in the study area and in all natural habitats where they live. So although we want to continue with our project and long term monitoring of monkeys, for now our activities are limited and constrained to anecdotal data.

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