Thursday, July 27, 2017

Primate Update July 2017

The Anthropocene Epoch- The 6th Mass Extinction is Underway

In the last 100 years, scientists conservatively estimate that at least 200 vertebrate species have gone extinct.  The average or “background” extinction rate is about 2 species per 100 years.  The current rate of species extinction is between 100 to1,000 times higher than the background rate.   These alarming figures verify that the 6th Mass extinction is already well underway. Even more disturbing, the current extinction event is between 10 to 100 times bigger than any of the previous 5 mass extinctions, and is the only known mass extinction of plant species in addition to animal species.

Mass Extinction is defined as “The extinction of a large number of species within a relatively short period of geological time, thought to be due to factors such as a catastrophic global event or widespread environmental change that occurs too rapidly for most species to adapt.”  

Many scientists are referring to our current time as the Anthropocene Epoch, meaning “human era”, it is viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.  The “Anthropocene Extinction”, as the current event is often called, is an apt name, as 99% of the currently threatened species are at risk because of human activity.  The human population is exploding at an unprecedented rate, from 1 billion in 1800, to 2 billion in 1930 to over 7 billion people today.  Never before has a single population of vertebrate animals grown so much or so fast, and had such a devastating impact.  Overexploitation, habitat degradation, deforestation, introduction of invasive species, pollution, and climate change are just a few of the disastrous forces that we are inflicting on our planet. Clearing forests for palm oil plantations is currently one of the largest causes of deforestation and species loss.  According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. Noted Biologist and author, Edward Wilson, calculated that if the current rate of human disturbance continues, half of Earth’s higher lifeforms will be extinct by 2100.


Many people are aware that species such as Orangutans, Cheetahs, and Black Rhinos are endangered and facing possible extinction. However, it is not just threatened and endangered species that are at risk, even species listed as “least concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are declining at a rapid rate. In a recent study, researchers examined a sample of 27,600 vertebrate species, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians all over the world.  The study revealed that over 30% of all species studied are experiencing considerable population declines. In the last 40 years, we have lost over 50% of the individual animals that once shared our planet, a staggering, catastrophic, heartbreaking loss of life.

Non-Human Primates in particular, are struggling to survive.  Earlier this year, a team of 31 primatologists analyzed all 504 known primate species. They discovered that 60% of all primate species are threatened with extinction, and 75% of all primate species are decreasing globally. Cotton Top Tamarins, a species rescued by Pacific Primate Sanctuary, are classified as Critically Endangered; they have lost over 80% of their population in the last 20 years.  They have also been placed on the list of 25 most endangered primates in the world, and their population continues to decline.  Black-handed spider monkeys, another species cared for at PPS, are currently classified as Endangered.

Every species plays an important role in their native habitat, acting as predator and prey to many other species.  Ecosystems rely on a delicate web of interconnected life forms, and if one species disappears, then others are likely to do so as well. If Humans continue to practice Ecocide (the extensive destruction of the natural environment), then it is likely that current extinction rates will only increase and ecosystems will fall apart and collapse.  Earth cannot sustain life if ecosystems fail— our world and all living beings are in extreme danger. The industrial world must recognize what has been done to the Earth. We are the ones who have created the crisis. It is past time to make a unified effort to heal the planet.  Knowledge is power— do your research, shop ethically, boycott products containing palm oil, and take steps to reduce your carbon footprint.  Make your voice heard— sign/start petitions, and demand that your government representatives work towards policy changes that support the environment. There are many organizations, like Pacific Primate Sanctuary, doing good in the world, and working towards a better future.  By supporting PPS, you are supporting positive global change.  Please help us to continue providing a place of peace and healing to threatened and endangered primates by volunteering or donating:

It is going to take a change in consciousness, an immense, determined effort to save our planet, and it will require all of us. The suggestions above are small things we can all do to slow the rates of ecological destruction and help shift the paradigm— but they are no longer enough. It is time to take a stand for our Earth and for all the life-forms we coexist with. Please spread the word, share this article with your friends and family, start a conversation. The more people who are thinking, talking, and responding to this catastrophe, the greater chance we have to create change on a personal and global level. Humans must reverse the current trends, eradicate ecocide; solutions must be found— and soon. 



The Hawaiian ancestors adhered to a set of values that guided their daily lives. These beliefs and principles have been passed on, through the generations, and are still an important part of traditional Hawaiian society today.  In this, and ongoing issues of Primate Update, we explore how the Sanctuary embodies traditional Hawaiian perspectives and practices.
Ha’aha’a: Humble, unpretentious, modest, unobtrusive
Kaona or hidden meaning: “The interconnectedness of the universe means all elements are dependent upon each other. Humility allows a person to perceive and experience that connection which in turn will allow these elements to work together for the benefit of the of the individual and the Ohana.”1

Ha‘aha‘a is the value of humility, which teaches us to respect all others as equals.  Every part of a family, a work team, or an ecosystem is integral. There is not one part that is more important, or more valuable than others.  Ha’aha’a instructs us to respect the contributions of others, as well as ourselves.  Be humble, modest, and share your thoughts. Allow others to contribute, and be ready to contribute in return.

At Pacific Primate Sanctuary, Ha’aha’a is a highly respected value.  Our humility allows us to work together as a team, learning from one another, and utilizing each of our unique skills.  The Sanctuary could not function without each member of the team, from Support Staff Volunteers, to Resident Interns, to Management.  We must be humble to learn and to serve the monkeys. We recognize the intrinsic value of all the beings on earth, and treat the monkeys as equals, deserving of respect and compassion.  Ha’aha’a is a value that can help us to heal the world.  



Donating to Pacific Primate Sanctuary can be as simple as doing an Internet search!  Visit and designate Pacific Primate Sanctuary as your charity of choice, and get started using this philanthropic program.  Each time you do a search using GoodSearch, a small contribution will be made to PPS!  Larger donations are made to PPS when you order from one of the many participating online stores, using GoodShop.

GoodShop is THE go-to place to find all those coupon codes and promo codes on the web for thousands of stores from The Gap, Best Buy, Expedia, Target, Apple and more!  So, don’t ever miss a chance to save a bit of money. AND, when you shop through Goodshop, a percentage of what you spend is donated to Pacific Primate Sanctuary!


AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support Pacific Primate Sanctuary every time you shop at Amazon, at no cost to you. When you shop at, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to PPS. Go to, and select Pacific Primate Sanctuary as your charity, or you can click on the following link:

Give the Gift of Your Service and Volunteer Your Time
We are currently in need of more local Volunteers! We need Animal Caregivers, Handy People, and Gardeners/Landscapers. Retirees are welcome. If you live on Maui and are interested in becoming one of Pacific Primate Sanctuary’s Angels, by volunteering your time and skills, please e-mail:

How to Contribute Directly
We rely on and deeply appreciate your continued partnership. Please make tax-deductible donations to the Sanctuary on our Website: and on FaceBook, using PayPal, or by sending a check to:                                   
Pacific Primate Sanctuary
500-A Haloa Road
Haiku, HI 96708

“Malama ‘Ola the Monkeys” and help us provide food, medicine and supplies for the monkeys at
Pacific Primate Sanctuary and contribute to the care of the
Beings with whom we share the Earth!



The Resident Internship at Pacific Primate Sanctuary is an in-depth, immersion experience. The program facilitates learning about New World primates and animal sanctuary management on an intimate, all-encompassing level. Interns are trained by experienced members of our staff in all aspects of New World primate care. Training is tailored for each Intern and progress is evaluated at each stage of instruction. In time, Interns may be awarded Primary Animal Caregiver Certification by senior personnel, after successfully acquiring a high level of competence, skill, and expertise in primate care, record keeping, and facility management. The learning process never truly ends and the scope and breadth of the Intern’s knowledge and responsibility grow over time.  The Internship is divided into three distinct training Modules.

In the first Module, Interns learn how to provide daily care, enrichment, and nurturing to the monkeys.  This includes preparing food, outfitting and cleaning enclosures, and maintaining the Sanctuary facility. They also learn about primate behavior and communication. Interns read and review relevant texts and articles and present short summaries, along with current primate status reports for PPS monthly staff meetings, and prepare the daily AM and PM status shift reports in SOAP format. In module 1, Interns learn to edit, update, and create new manual documents.  Intern Holly arrived in June, and is currently in Module 1 of her training.  Holly recently graduated from Central Washington University, earning a Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Biology and Primate Behavior and Ecology.  The PPS Internship was recommended to her by one of her professors, Dr. Lori Sheeran, who is on the PPS Advisory Board. This is Holly’s first experience caring for primates, and she is readily absorbing the new information that she is learning.

Module 2 focuses on Emergency Care and Behavioral Conditioning. Interns start Emergency Care training, becoming proficient in capture, transfer, restraint, handling, and specialized individual care. In this module, Interns get specialized medical training: calculating drug dosages and administering medication, performing physical examinations, checking vital signs (temperature, respiratory, and pulse rate), providing subcutaneous fluid therapy and intensive care (heat, fluids, special diet, wound care, etc.). They play an intimate part in veterinary consultations, treatment plans, and follow-up. Interns also study and observe behavioral conditioning techniques. Interns submit proposals for their in-depth independent project, which will contribute to the care and understanding of the primates at PPS.  Intern Lauren, who arrived in February, recently completed her Module 2 training.  Lauren has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, and spent 6 months caring for capuchins and squirrel monkeys in the Dominican Republic prior to coming to PPS.

In the third Module Interns participate in Sanctuary Management.  This consists of training new Volunteers, monitoring social welfare of the animals, and ensuring that the records and reporting on the daily status of the primates are thorough and current. Interns acquire skills in Colony Management, making recommendations for new pairings and corridor movements.  In this module, Interns also focus on their Independent Project.  Interns will become certified as a Primary Animal Caregiver, make the transition to Senior Intern, and finally become a Mentor Caregiver, helping to train the next Senior Interns.  Jessica and Gini are Senior Interns, who both arrived in September 2016.  Gini is from Australia, and has a Certificate III in Captive Animals, along with experience caring for exotic animals at the Taronga Zoo. Jessica has a Master’s in Psychology.  She volunteered at two different primate sanctuaries prior to coming to PPS, working with capuchin monkeys and lemurs. 

A great value of the PPS Internship program is the training and education that we provide to the next generation of conservationists, environmentalists, and ecologists. Mentored Interns are taught how to provide compassionate care to vulnerable and endangered species and comprehend the global issues threatening their populations.  Our mutually beneficial, immersive Internship program offers a unique and valuable learning experience to Interns, and exceptional animal care for the primates at the Sanctuary.

Pacific Primate Sanctuary has trained 42 Resident Interns over the past 13 years and the curriculum for this program has deepened and expanded over time. The insight and understanding gained from involvement with PPS, impacts the future personal and professional lives of the Interns and Volunteers and affects an ever-widening circle of people with whom they interact. Interns leave PPS trained to be stewards of our precious planet and caregivers of the Beings we share it with.


Special Topic: Intern Lauren
Spider Monkey Habitat Use and Ranging Patterns

Spider monkeys live in the upper canopy of the rainforest, gravitating towards areas with tall evergreen and semi deciduous tropical forests. Their average home range is 150 to 350 hectares in size. This area includes where they sleep, eat, and spend most of their time. Spider monkeys tend to stay within their home ranges, in individual core areas. These are smaller overlapping divisions in the home range that are not generally exclusive and exist to decrease competition due to the broad spread of resources in their environment. They move throughout their environment to increase their access to resources and limit risks from predation.

By considering where and why animals move within their environment, we can understand more about their resource use as well as social structures. Spider monkey troupes tend to sleep together in a large centralized tree. By staying in a group, they are safer from nocturnal predators. These trees are usually located near the center of the home range, while individual core areas clump around patches of fruit trees. Having a meeting place in the middle of their home range allows the group to share important information about resources.

Most of the movement seen in wild spider monkeys is due to differing availability and distribution of fruit trees in different areas. As the seasons change, and different fruits come into season, the group will change its ranging patterns. These movement patterns are inconsistent and decrease during times of low fruit availability, during which spider monkeys begin to rely more on secondary food sources such as leaves and bark. Groups will even come down from the trees for mineral licks or water when necessary.

Terrestrial behavior in spider monkeys puts the group at higher risk for predation. Their predators include the harpy and crested eagles, jaguars, and pumas. Younger members are also at risk from smaller birds and mammals as well as boa constrictors. When a spider monkey feels threatened, they will often display a behavior called branch shaking. They will also keep look out for other group members as they make use of terrestrial resources.

For the most part, spider monkeys avoid areas they know to be inhabited by predators. This behavior affects their ranging patterns and limits their resources further. To avoid competition between groups, male dominated patrol groups spend time along the outer borders of the territory. Due to the distance between food sources, they must keep a close eye on clumps of fruiting trees within their home range.

With limited food sources, spider monkeys are confined to specific areas, some of which are prone to deforestation and development by humans. As their habitats shrink, their populations do as well, making them a vulnerable species.

For spider monkeys in the wild, much of life revolves around food. It is no different for the spider monkeys at PPS. Carlos and Montana are offered different food based enrichments to mimic their wild foraging behaviors. These include placing parts of their diets in different areas of their enclosure as well as hiding food in Ti leaf bundles or buckets filled with hay, which allows them to forage.

Works Cited:
  • Campbell, Christina J., ed. Spider Monkeys: The Biology, Behaviour, and Ecology of the Genus Ateles. New York: Cambridge U Press, 2008. Print. Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology.
  • IUCN 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. . Downloaded on 07 December 2016.

Special Topic: Intern Gini
How Capuchins Use Objects and Tools

Capuchins have long been known for being masters in the complex manipulation of objects. Tool use was first thought to be an unnatural behavior in captive primates prompted by humans. However, extensive observations of wild apes have shown that tool use is actually a behavior that is passed from parent to offspring in the wild.  Capuchins have not been studied in the wild as extensively as apes. However, impressive achievements with tool use in a captive setting indicate that these skills would also occur in their natural habitat.

Nut cracking by capuchins in captive environments is mentioned in reports dating as far back as the sixteenth century. *Nut cracking is a behavior in which a capuchin will place a hard-shelled nut on the ground or a fallen branch, pick up a large rock, lift it high over their head and force it down onto the nut. This behavior is repeated until the shell cracks allowing the capuchin to pick out the nut inside. It wasn’t until very recently (within the last few decades) that primatologists “discovered” the spontaneous use of stones to crack nuts in a semi-free ranging group of tufted capuchin monkeys. 
(*Videos of Capuchin tool use in the wild can be found at the following links: )

Capuchins are master manipulators, and with this comes intellectual thought and problem solving. Tool use is an advanced thought process, which enables capuchins to reduce foraging time, reach food items they couldn't ordinarily reach, and to retrieve hard to find or access foods. Capuchins have been reported using long sticks to extend their reach. A study took place where a container was filled with semi-liquid foods such as applesauce, yogurt, and syrup.  The containers had tiny openings, too small for the capuchins fingers. Objects were placed in the room such as sticks, straws, dowels, bolts and branches. Capuchins are able to easily master this task, utilizing sticks or straws to get to the food.  Even very young capuchins (under 1 year old) are successful in this task.  This depicts their vast knowledge and skill in manipulation and their perspective of the world around them.

Miracle and Prospero, the two capuchins at Pacific Primate Sanctuary, are provided with hard shelled nuts, which allows them to problem solve in order to access the nut inside. Problem solving is no easy task and requires patience and skill. They use various techniques, including biting with their strong jaws and hard teeth and hitting the nut against a hard surface. Prospero the male capuchin, takes a little longer to crack nuts than his partner Miracle, who usually cracks hers rather quickly. Prospero has been observed watching Miracle and her technique, a practice used frequently in the wild by infants and adolescents. Although Prospero is a fully grown mature adult male, he still exhibits the same curiosity and desire to learn as a young capuchin.  He is able to gain new skills by imitating Miracle, and utilizing new techniques to increase his success in retrieving food items.

Works Cited:
Research paper: Capuchin monkey tool use: Overview and implications. Available from: [accessed May 6, 2017].
Dorothy M. Fragaszy, Elisabetta Visalberghi, Linda Marie Fedigan. “The Complete Capuchin – The Biology of the Genus Cebus.” The United Kingdom, Cambridge, University press, 2004.
Aversi-Ferreira RAGMF, Maior RS, Aziz A, Ziermann JM, Nishijo H, et al. (2014) Anatomical Analysis of Thumb Opponency Movement in the Capuchin Monkey (Sapajus sp). PLoS ONE 9(2): e87288. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087288

Special Topic: Intern Jessica
Primate Diets

Providing proper nutrition to captive primates can be difficult for a variety of reasons, including inherent differences between captive and wild settings and differences in amount and type of food available. In the wild, the search for food may take up the majority of a monkey’s day, requiring time spent both exploring their environment in order to locate food sources and devising ways to obtain those food sources once they have been located. This can include activities such as travelling across forests, hunting, cracking open seeds, removing insects from holes in trees, etc. In addition to energy spent obtaining food, food sources are highly variable by season, and thus a primate’s diet is largely varied, and includes things such as animals, insects, fruits, vegetable, leaves, and gums.

In terms of locating food, wild primates are required to expend a high amount of energy on a daily basis to ensure they obtain enough food; capuchin monkeys, for example, may travel for miles each day across the forest tree-tops. Because this is not possible in a captive setting, energy requirements must be adjusted when calculating nutritional needs. While captive monkeys may not have to travel as far for their food, it is possible to simulate wild-like forging behaviors in the way that food is presented. For example, one form of enrichment the monkeys at PPS are particularly fond of, is when food items are strung onto Ti leaves.  These leaves, which are now covered with small treats, are hung in the monkey’s enclosures.  This simulates natural foraging behaviors in which wild primates would have to pluck small fruits or seeds off of the plants they are growing on.  Similarly, we will sometimes provide whole branches from a fruiting tree, such as mulberry or strawberry guava, to the capuchins and spider monkeys, allowing them to pick the fruits themselves.
As mentioned, wild primate diets are widely varied, and often based on seasonal availability. Captive populations, including the monkeys at PPS, typically receive commercial primate diets, which have been specially formulated to meet the full nutritional needs of the animals. While this has the benefit of ensuring that all vitamin and mineral needs are met, it lacks similarity to what animals would eat in the wild.  Because of this, the monkeys at PPS also receive a variety of other fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. As we grow a wide variety of tropical fruits and vegetables on site, the monkeys are able to experience a seasonal shift in foods. Recently, for example, the capuchin and spider monkeys have been enjoying Brazilian and Surinam cherries and ice cream bean which just now began to fruit. The customized diets not only ensure their dietary needs of the monkeys are met, but also allow them to experience a life as similar to their natural habitat as possible.

Works Cited:
Wolfehsohn, Sarah and Honess, Paul. (2005). Handbook of Primate Husbandry and Welfare. Blackwell Publishing
Dorothy M. Fragaszy, Elisabetta Visalberghi, Linda Marie Fedigan. “The Complete Capuchin – The Biology of the Genus Cebus.” The United Kingdom, Cambridge, University press, 2004.
Maxwell, H. (2009). Inexpensive Enclosures for Small Sanctuaries: Alternatives to Million Dollar Environments. Oxford
The Simian Society of America. (1995). Primate Care.

We hope you have enjoyed this issue of Pacific Primate Sanctuary’s E-Newsletter. Thank you for your support of our life giving work. Because of compassionate people, the Sanctuary can continue to provide a place of peace and happiness for primates saved from research laboratories, animal dealers, and tourist attractions. Here they can heal, form social groups, and live free from exploitation.

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