Twycross Zoo joins forces with Wildtracks to support landmark conservation project in Belize
Leading conservation charity, Twycross Zoo, is supporting a landmark conservation project in Belize to protect spider monkey populations in the wild.
Twycross Zoo is working with Wildtracks, an important conservation partner of the Zoo and the only organisation rehabilitating and releasing primates back into the wild in Belize.
Since the end of March this year, and over the following months, Wildtracks have begun releasing up to 21 spider monkeys back into the wild. Twycross Zoo is supporting this crucial work by contributing to the funding of the GPS collars required for the project.
Worn by each spider monkey, the collars cost $2,000 each and are specially designed to be as lightweight as possible whilst also providing accurate data for the Wildtracks team. This data is crucial in helping to track the monkeys’ movements and activity and allows Wildtracks to support specific groups or individuals if required to help maximise their chances of survival in the wild.
The spider monkeys will be released in their familial ‘groups’ which are 4 to 6 in size. The initial release of 4 spider monkeys will be followed by a further three groups, with each group being given several months to settle as the Wildtracks team track their progress before releasing the next.
Dr Rebecca Biddle, Director of Conservation at Twycross Zoo, said:
“We are so pleased to support this landmark conservation work in Belize. Spider monkeys are a globally endangered species and in Belize they are under continued threat from deforestation and the illegal pet trade.
“That’s why the work of Wildtracks is so important in helping to protect the species. We are delighted to support the successive releases of a total of 21 spider monkeys rescued from the illegal wildlife trade back into their natural habitat. Our donation of GPS collars will provide the team with vital on-the-ground data, giving valuable insights into the monkeys’ behaviour and hopefully help ensure their long-term survival.”
Paul Walker, Founder of Wildtracks, said:
“This group of spider monkeys is large enough in number to establish a new population within its former range, as long as the survival rate is high, so this release is a hugely significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to protect and preserve this endangered species. The GPS collars will be a critical tool in ensuring the success of the release and we’d like to thank Twycross Zoo for its generous contribution.
“Our primary aim is to see spider monkey populations survive and thrive in the wild, but our primate rehabilitation work has other positive impacts too – working with the Forest Department of the Government of Belize, the illegal trade in monkeys in Belize has now been reduced by 95% from previous levels. It’s so encouraging to see increased public awareness around the threats facing these species, and the growing pride that the people of Belize have in their native wildlife. It is thanks to partners such as Twycross Zoo that this work is possible and we hope this project marks a step-change in survival rates for spider monkeys in the wild.”
This latest project follows an earlier release by Wildtracks of rehabilitated spider monkeys in 2019, which Twycross Zoo also supported by providing crucial veterinary health checks for the monkeys ahead of their release. This visit provided essential capacity building for the Wildtracks team who are now able to undertake all the health checks and fit the GPS collars to support their own releases.
Dr Rebecca Biddle added:
“As a conservation charity, our purpose is to preserve and protect the species with whom we share our planet and we’re committed to supporting projects both here in the UK and internationally. We’re proud to work in partnership with organisations such as Wildtracks to shine a light on the challenges facing the natural world, and projects such as these are vital in helping to protect some of the world’s most endangered species.
“Here at Twycross, visitors can see both variegated spider monkeys and black headed spider monkeys and learn more about these fascinating species. By spending the day at the Zoo, every visitor can support both our ongoing conservation efforts here in the UK and the important work of international organisations such as Wildtracks in Belize.”
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