Post-Release Monitoring in Great Ape Reintroduction: Current Techniques in Evaluating Health and Behavior
Aubrey M. Tauer
College of Veterinary Medicine and School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
Reintroduction of great apes for animal welfare and conservation purposes has been successfully attempted in the last few years. Post-release monitoring is essential to determine the viability of a released population and the impact of the population on the ecosystem.
Before reintroduction, a detailed plan for monitoring the individuals released should be developed. Worker safety should be a priority when considering methods of monitoring. Physical attacks on field workers have occurred with reintroduced common chimpanzees. Monitoring methods that provide little or no interaction with the released animals are preferable, to minimize disease exchange, maximize human and animal safety, and to encourage natural behavior in the animals. New remote sensing technology can be used to complement more traditional behavioral monitoring methods, and it would be an asset in monitoring solitary individuals and those that leave the study site.1,4
Behavioral data should be collected on all individuals released in a regular, systematic manner.5 The program CyberTracker has been used with hand-held computers to gather data on the health and behavior of free-ranging great apes, and it could be adapted to be used for reintroduced great apes. This allows for easy integration with computer analysis programs, such as Epi Info™ and GIS mapping software.
Disease monitoring is an essential part of post-release monitoring, yet little data on the disease status of reintroduced primates is available. Fecal and urine samples should be collected on a regular basis and preserved for laboratory evaluation. Fecal flotation, urine test strips, and point-of-care Giardia spp. and Cryptosporidia spp. kits can be utilized in situ. Viral pathogens, such as simian immunodeficiency virus,3 simian T-lymphotropic virus,2 and rotavirus6 have been isolated from fecal samples of wild great apes. Additional research would expand the availability of diagnostic tests useful to both wild and reintroduced great apes.
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