Study Shows Field Research Protects Wildlife

April 21, 2011

Study Shows Field Research Protects Wildlife

Like other first-time Fossey Fund bloggers I'm happy to introduce myself with some good news for everyone concerned with the future of primates in the wild. My title is the Pat and Forest McGrath Chair of Research and Conservation. Simply put, I'm a primatologist who studies gorillas in the wild, and I also work with gorillas at Zoo Atlanta. My good news is that my fellow scientists have found evidence confirming that our long-term studies in the field not only add to our knowledge but also help protect wildlife populations.

An article in the current issue of the journal Biology Letters reports that a team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, long-time partners with the Fossey Fund, have found this positive effect where they have been studying chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast's Tai National Park since 1979. Primates and other animals thrive where the scientists conduct their research. "Step outside the research zone, though" the article says, "and the animal sounds fall silent. . . as a result of heavy poaching" according to Science magazine, which reported on the article.

In the journal report, the Max Planck team detailed the evidence that the only consistent and significant factor connected with the presence of the animals was how close they were to the researchers. There were no signs of poaching in the research area but up to 15 times as many outside, due to the scarcity of funding for park rangers, a common problem in Africa. This should strengthen appeals for funds to support both long-term wildlife studies and national park staff.

It's great to have some data to support what the larger conservation community has felt for a long time — that our work studying animals can be a great complement to direct protection activities.

Tara Stoinski, Ph.D., Pat and Forest McGrath Chair of Research and Conservation