Monday, 7 May 2012

Save a monkey to save a species

Would you save a baby monkey if you discovered it injured, alone and abandoned in the street?
There is something beguiling about a baby monkey.
It is a trembling, nervous thing, yet intelligent and fiercely inquisitive, full of potential. If you found it, you might feel an instant pull to help it, to save its life.
But saving individual animals seems an outdated approach to conservation. Surely saving a population, a whole species, or the habitat in which it lives is a more efficient, and effective way to conserve wild animals?
Not necessarily so, says Dr Wolfgang Dittus, who is known as the "monkey master".
Alongside his regular research, Dr Dittus and his colleagues in Sri Lanka spend their personal time and money saving macaques that have been injured by people.
By saving injured individuals, whether they be babies, orphans, or adults still part of a monkey "family", Dr Dittus's team are doing grass roots conservation, which they say is the only way to change the way people think about these animals, and help them to live alongside each other.
Dr Wolfgang Dittus, or Wolf as he likes to be known, first arrived in Sri Lanka in late 1968 to study communication in toque macaques for his PhD.
Six decades later he is still there, studying monkeys around the Polonnaruwa archaeological site, and rehabilitating those that need his help.

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