Gelada Baboon Research Study

In 2018, Action for the Wild started supporting a Gelada baboon research project in Ethiopia, and has donated over £2,500 to date. The goal of this project is to improve knowledge and ultimately the conservation of this species in the wild. Very little is known about the population structure, welfare condition and behaviour of gelada baboons that live outside of protected areas and are affected by severe human pressure.

A new study published that Action for the Wild helped fund looks into how different human-primate areas (crop and pasture areas) affect the health and social behaviour of the gelada baboons. 140 gelada baboons were studied between January-May 2019 and December 2019-February 2020. Cultivated plants in crop areas can be highly attractive to geladas, who then approach human settlements to enter the fields in search of food. The crop areas studied consisted of agricultural fields and the zone within 300m of the closest house or cultivated land. In contrast, pasture areas are grasslands without human settlements and cultivated fields, where livestock (horses, goats, sheep, donkeys, and cows) graze during the day, led by shepherds.

Results showed that the geladas frequenting crop areas can be exposed to direct and indirect disturbance. Crop users were exposed to more direct human disturbance, e.g chasing with stones or sticks. Frequent crop users also had significantly greater levels of parasites (Entamoeba histolytica/dispar) compared to infrequent crop users and a higher prevalence of external signs of pathology (alopecia and abnormal swelling). Such pathologies can be caused by iodine deficiency, the use of herbicides on the crops or endoparasites such as tapeworm caught from domestic dogs. In summary, the results suggest that agricultural activities close to human settlements can have a strong impact on wild gelada health.

Geladas foraged significantly less in the crop areas in comparison to pasture,  pairs spent significantly more time grooming in the pasture than in the crop areas and engaged in more intense aggressive events when they were in the pasture area than when they were in the crop area. Potentially this reduced social behaviour in the crop areas is to reduce detection probability. Reducing social affiliation and aggression intensity may allow animals to focus on food provisioning, spend less time in the crop area (than in the pasture area), and decrease the probability of being detected.

In conclusion, this work provides a novel assessment of direct and indirect human impact on a wild population of gelada baboons in an unprotected area, in terms of both health status and social behaviour. From a conservation point of view, it is important to assess the impact that human activities can have on health and social interactions of gelada baboons. Further research is needed to clarify the repercussions of human disturbance on the welfare and social dynamics of wild geladas living in unprotected areas in order to contribute to the improvement of the conservation of wild geladas in Ethiopia.

Action for the Wild project support continues

Colchester Zoo’s charitable arm was established in 2004. Since it became a charity, £3.25 million has been raised and donated to animal conservation projects globally.

One of the side effects of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic and loss of vital zoo income, is the delay or cancellation of many zoo conservation projects. Despite a £100m Zoo Animals Fund being announced, less than 10% of this has been spent. The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA) would like to ‘see the unspent £90m being used to get zoos and aquariums back on their feet so they can get on with fighting extinction’. (Quoted from inews here.)

Each year, Colchester Zoo’s charity Action for the Wild prides itself in supporting a diversity of field conservation projects, assisting with vital conservation work to reduce the plight of many species, from the Fisher’s Estuarine Moth to Amur leopards, Malayan sun bears and Komodo dragons. A loss of vital income and donations from our visitors has seen a 73.6% reduction in conservation spend in 2020 versus 2019, with funds only available to help 6 conservation projects rather than the usual 15-20 that Action for the Wild would support.

With restrictions lifting and visitor income returning, Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild pledges to resume its vital field conservation work supporting a diversity of projects over 2021/22. Our animal species at Colchester Zoo are vital ambassadors for their wild counterparts. If you would like to help them carry out this role, then please consider making a donation here. We really do appreciate any support you can offer us in continuing this vital work.

Colchester Zoo’s elephants take part in HEAT project!

The thermal camera used.

Colchester Zoo has recently been collaborating with ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on a fantastic elephant project; we are so proud that our elephants can be involved in innovative work to contribute to the conservation of their wild counterparts! The project uses thermal cameras to identify the heat signature of elephants, spearheading the creation of the HEAT (Human-Elephant Alert Technologies) Project. 

Cameras have been set up all around our enclosure taking thermal pictures of our elephants; from different distances, at different angles, and whilst the elephants are doing different things, such as training or reaching up to eat food. The images of our African elephants can also be compared to those of the Asian elephants at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to detect the differences in size and shape of the different species.

The thousands of thermal photographs collected are being used to “train” camera technology to recognise what an elephant looks like, and at present the “model” created can confidently identify elephants and people up to 30 metres away.  

Our footage yielded some fantastic photos, perfect for confusing and then teaching the “model”, with our keepers in close proximity to the elephants whilst training and our elephants reaching up to feed off branches, thus presenting a different body shape for the technology to recognise so that it doesn’t falsely identify the image as that of a human.

The ultimate aim is for the development of a low cost camera system that can be used in the field. It will be able to detect elephants 24/7 as it can “see” the thermal shape of elephants (even in the dark), sending an alert to communities living around elephants so they can avoid any conflict situations.  Human-elephant conflict is a major conservation concern in elephant range countries and there is no other low-cost solution available that is capable of generating early warning alerts 24/7, so we are honoured to participate in this study.

This elephant alert system has been developed as part of an alliance between the Arribada Initiative, a UK-based technology NGO, the Zoological Society of London, WWF Netherlands and WILDLABS, an online conservation technology network.

Action for the Wild has supported the N/a’an ku sê Foundation since 2012 in support of their large carnivore research programme. In total, we have donated over £29,000 to date, and will be donating a further £4,836.07 this month to cover the costs of one GPS Iridium collar, 15 camera traps, 150 rechargeable batteries and 2x battery chargers.

Namibia is unique. It is one of only a few African countries in which six species of large carnivore are still free-roaming; this includes harbouring around 25% of the global wild cheetah population. With more than 40% of the land-use in Namibia dedicated to commercial farming, conflict between carnivores and humans is not only likely, but inevitable. The N/a’an ku sê Large Carnivore Conservation Research Project began in 2008 as a response to the widespread human-carnivore conflict occurring across Namibian farmland. This project aims to work with local farmers and landowners to not only conserve viable large carnivore populations in the current ranges, but to also engage farmers with practical, cost-effective and non-lethal tools to manage carnivores.

Since 2008, the team have prevented a significant number of carnivore persecutions by working with farmers to protect their livestock, while simultaneously conserving Namibia’s majestic wildlife in their current ranges. To date they have responded to over 740 human-carnivore conflict calls from landowners, attended 181 in person carnivore conflict situations and collared 99 carnivores.

The 2019 aims of this project are to continue and expand their life saving work with suspected problem carnivores including: to reach 70% of Namibian commercial farmland (increasing from 8% in 2008), attend 60 conflict situations, increase engagement with key stakeholders to influence policies to reduce human-wildlife conflict and obtain a clear understanding of the ecology of carnivores in Namibia. 

In October the N/a’an ku sê Rapid Response team received four (two leopard, one cheetah, and one caracal) carnivore conflict cases.

On the 4th of October, the team received a call concerning a juvenile leopard caught in a capture cage. Although the farmer kraals his animals at night, the kraal was not ‘predator proof’ resulting in a calf being caught by the leopard within the kraal. After consulting with the farmer, he decided to release the young cub and predator proof his kraals.

On the 9th October, the team received a call from a farmer reporting that he had caught a caracal in a trap cage on his property. The farmer kraals all his livestock animals (mostly goats) at night but had to keep one ewe separate (out of the closed kraal) in order to separate her from the rams. Unfortunately, a caracal jumped inside the unprotected (not ‘predator proof’) kraal and killed the ewe. Using the ewe as bait, the farmer caught the caracal the next day. The farmer admitted that it was his actions that lead to the caracal killing his ewe but wanted the caracal off his property. The caracal was therefore collected, translocated and released on the Zannier reserve.

On the 24th October the team received a call from a farmer in the north of Namibia that suffered livestock losses due to presumably two leopards. The team is busy consulting with the farmer on the best possible methods to avoid further conflict.

In October, Action for the Wild sent a £7,000 donation to the Orangutan Foundation, bringing our total contribution to over £47,000 for this charity.

Our funds help to cover the veterinarian’s salary and assist with orangutan translocation costs. There have been 7 orangutans rescued and translocated since mid July. In August, in the same week that the team rescued a pair of wild orangutans from an isolated oil palm plantation, they received news of another orangutan being kept as a pet. The owner had contacted government officials as they could no longer care for the ape, and therefore Orangutan Foundation staff  were called upon to assist. On examining the orangutan, she appeared in good health so was taken to Camp Buluh in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. It’s here that she’ll join another orphaned orangutan, in the soft-release programme, with the hope of one day being released into the wild.

In October, reports from government officials suggested that an orangutan had been found by a group of villagers who had discovered the great ape when it ventured into an area of community plantations- quite possibly searching for food as a result of the remnant fires that have blotted the region in recent weeks. On arrival, the team were able to observe that the orangutan was a female who had already been independently captured by the local people and put inside a transport crate. Shortly after the rescue the team received a worrying piece of news. It transpired that during the capture of the female, she had also been separated from a young infant that local residents wished to keep as a pet. Fortunately however, the 2 month old baby was rescued and reunited with its mother and subsequently released a few days later into Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

The fires disturbing the region are often the result of traditional farming methods. Towards the end of a dry season, farmers in this part of the world will routinely use aslash and burn agricultural technique to clear their land and provide better conditions for crop regeneration. Local communities may also use this method in order to create clearings so that they can hunt for deer or wild boar. In particularly dry years, these fires can burn out of control for prolonged periods of time; causing to orangutans to search for food and come into conflict with people.

Aerial View of Rainforest in Brazil

The latest report on Primates in Peril, listing the world’s 25 most endangered primates 2018-2020, has now been published. The pied tamarin, Saguinus bicolor, a species housed here at Colchester Zoo since 2008 has been listed on this report

Pied tamarins come from the Brazilian Amazon and have one of the smallest geographic ranges of any Amazonian primate. A large portion of their distribution is taken up by the city of Manaus and its metropolitan region. As a result, urban expansion, roads, agriculture and cattle ranching pose a significant threat to this species. In urban areas, pied tamarins are run over, electrocuted when using power lines, attacked by cats and dogs, captured as pets, and generally mistreated and, away from urban areas, the pied tamarin is threatened by deforestation, habitat degradation and fragmentation, and displacement by encroaching red-handed tamarins, Saguinus midas.

The threats to this species have resulted in its classification as critically endangered (CR) on the Brazilian List of Threatened Wildlife, and it has also been ranked as critically endangered by the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group. An action plan for the conservation of the species has been produced, with an environmental education programme to increase understanding of the threatened status of the species, promote the adoption of the species as the symbol of Manaus, and also cultivate new allies for conservation and research.

The financial support provided by the European and US zoos for pied tamarin conservation projects has been, and remains, extremely important for pied tamarin conservation efforts. Currently there are just two protected areas for the species; each smaller than 50 ha. Since 2011, research and conservation measures have resulted in the reforestation of degraded areas and the creation of ecological corridors vital for the maintenance and connectivity of viable populations in the more urbanized areas.

Action for the Wild has taken this reforestation effort as a new project for 2019 and has pledged a donation of £500 for the Trees for Tamarins project. The main objective of this project is to support the planting of native tree seedlings to be used in reforestation projects in priority areas in Manaus City, reconnecting fragments used by pied tamarin populations.

(Schwitzer, C., Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B., Chiozza, F., Williamson, E.A., Byler, D., Wich, S., Humle, T., Johnson, C., Mynott, H., and McCabe, G. (eds.). 2019. Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2018–2020. IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, International Primatological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, and Bristol Zoological Society, Washington, DC. 130pp

Action for the Wild began supporting the Hornbill Research Foundation in 2002. Every year, we adopt family groups of hornbills to assist with their study and protection in three main sites in Thailand. The project’s aims are to enhance knowledge, promote awareness, and change behaviour to aid hornbill conservation, increase the population of hornbills, and increase the number of trees replanted in proportion to the increased number of hornbills.

Across the study sites last year, there were 373 available nest trees, where 182 nest cavities  were used and 217 chicks successfully fledged. Of these nests, some are natural, but one of the project’s main activities is to create artificial nest cavities.

The use of artificial nests can increase growth rates of hornbill chicks in the wild areas where few large trees containing natural cavities remain. In 2018, 31 artificial nests were in existence, made from camouflaged fibreglass or wine barrels. Seven artificial nest cavities were used and eleven chicks were successfully fledged. Only the great and oriental-pied hornbills were found to use the artificial nests, while the rhinoceros, helmeted, and bushy-crested hornbills only inspected these nests out of interest, but never used them.

The use of artificial nests for hornbill breeding purposes is necessary because natural tree cavities usually occur in old trees. These large and old trees can fall down as a result of storms and are susceptible to being cut down through illegal logging. Moreover, the natural process of cavity creation is slow, complex, and not always suitable for hornbills. Therefore, artificial nests will be very useful for hornbill conservation.

Collaboration with the local community is also key to this project. In addition to employment, the project also works with conflict issues. In one community, hornbills had nested and destroyed the community orchards. The community leaders contacted the Hornbill Research Foundation to look into artificial nest cavity implementation in their orchards to solve these issues.

Action for the Wild currently supports three hornbill nests. In 2018, our helmeted hornbill and white crowned hornbill families were not successful. The female helmeted hornbill did remain within the nest for 102 days, but sadly the feather remains of the chick were found under the nest tree. Our rhinoceros hornbill pair were however successful. They utilised a nest tree first found in 2014, in which they have fledged four chicks previously between 2015 and 2018. They successfully bred one chick in 2018 over a 113 day period from the female sealing herself in the nest to the chick exiting the nest. The nest guardian, Mr Ruslan Jaroo, observed the nest site for 407 hours over 68 days, watching the male hornbill visiting and feeding every 1-3 hours.

Action for the Wild first began supporting Free the Bears in 2011 and has donated over £51,000 to date. Our funds currently go towards improving facilities and caring for rescued bears at the Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary in Laos.

So far, 2019 has been a record year for bear rescues, with 15 bears rescued to date. The team have been working to rescue some of these bears for a long time, such as two moon bears (Laos Rescues #67 & #68) which were finally rescued in February after an 18 month long process.

The majority of bear rescues in Laos are moon bears. However, on Sunday June 2nd, the team set off for a 1,000 km trip to the other end of the country to rescue a four year old sun bear (Laos Rescue #71). This four-year-old female sun bear is the second sun bear at the sanctuary and she will eventually provide company to sun bear, Mary Xmas (Laos Rescue #66), who arrived in December weighing 4.4kg, in a malnourished and dehydrated state.

August and September have proved the busiest months for rescues. When the team set out on August 19th to rescue two young moon bear cubs from a remote province in northern Laos, little did they know that by the end of the day they’d have five cubs; their largest ever rescue. The team then rescued another 4 moon bears in September; in early September they rescued two adult moon bears that were being kept as ‘pets’. Grossly overweight from a poor diet and being locked in a small cage for years, they’re now on the road to recovery, then later in the month they also picked up two tiny moon bear cubs.

Whilst 9 rescues in three weeks demonstrates the result of increased government enforcement of wildlife laws, this also raises many questions. Where are all these orphaned cubs coming from? How many more just disappear? How are the centres going to cope with this influx of rescues?

Work at the centre has also continued in full force this year. Bear House 3 opened in late January allowing a group of juvenile female cubs from the old centre to move in. Bear House 4 is almost completed, which will again allow another group to be moved up from the old facility. Additional security fencing has also been erected and the team are now completing the Quarantine House and Cub Nursery before moving on to additional bear houses.

Their Wildlife Hospital is finally up and running. As the only facility of its kind in the region, the hospital will be of enormous benefit to wildlife in Laos. Already Dr Kath is hard at work having completed procedures on bears, macaques, civets and a pangolin. This pangolin is the first Chinese pangolin Free the Bears have ever rescued and has gone into the newly completed specialist facility for pangolins. This critically endangered species has made it through a delicate period and appears to be on the road to recovery.

Action for the Wild first started supporting the Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia in 2010. Since support began, we have donated over £53,000 to this project. On the 10th September, one of the project’s female orphaned elephants, Chamilandu, made history as the first Zambian orphaned elephant to deliver a wild born baby.⁣⁣

Having roamed free in Kafue National Park for the past four years, Chamilandu returned to the project’s elephant boma to give birth. It was incredibly significant that Chamilandu returned to the boma to give birth, as she lacks an older female elephant support network, and, alone in the wild, her calf would have been extremely vulnerable to predators. ⁣

The entire orphan herd showed huge interest and excitement in this new addition as they welcomed back their matriarch. As the eldest elephant in the herd (13 years) she has been instrumental in mothering every orphan that has come her way. In a sense, preparing for the birth of her own calf for the last 11 years.
With the calf’s increasing energy, she is varying their daily movements, alternating from walking alone with him, to joining her ‘old herd’ (the older orphans with whom she has the closest bond), to moving with the entire Release Herd.

The birth of the calf, now named Mutaanzi David, is an amazing milestone for Game Rangers International and the Elephant Orphanage Project, representing a 11 year journey helping to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned elephants; symbolic of their hopes for the future, in which humans and wildlife will co-exist.

Head of Section, Angela Matthews, is off to South Africa to assist with a conservation programme for the Lesser flamingo. Supported by Colchester Zoo’s charity, Action for the Wild, Angela will be based at Lory Park to help feed, clean and support the general care of flamingos chicks that have been placed here due to drought at Kamfers dam.

Kamfers dam in Kimberly, South Africa is the breeding ground for the Lesser flamingo, it is one of only 4 breeding grounds in the country  and covers 400 hectares. Most years there can be 20,000 birds on the lake but there can be up to 50,000! The lake relies on Sol plaatjie municipality to top the water level up but unfortunately this hasn’t happened this year and the rain fall in the area has been particularly low resulting in low water levels in the lake. Sadly, this means there is not enough food on the lake for all the flamingos therefore the adult flamingos have had to leave their chicks behind to find another suitable lake for them to thrive from.

Many organisations have come to the rescue of the chicks and together took in over 1000 chicks for hand rearing, with potentially more requiring help depending on the rainfall. A huge community effort took place to help rear the chicks, including working around the clock, collecting supplies, donating supplies and social media posting for support. The chicks were initially all in one place at SPCA but they were not large enough to assist the number of chicks which needed help at once. Once the flamingo chicks were stable enough, they were moved to various locations to continue with rearing but in a more manageable fashion.

Upon hearing the need of aid for the Lesser flamingo, Angela contacted the head of the organisation supporting the project to volunteer some assistance. Action for the Wild has helped fund Angela’s trip to offer this vital help that the species needs.

At Colchester Zoo Angela cares for a number of species including the Chilean Flamingo. Although this is not the same sub-species of flamingo, a lot can still be learnt from them and her experience of working with the birds will help the project in South Africa. Angela said, “My goal was to help with the crisis but also to gain knowledge in how to hand raise these birds, a skill which will be transferable to my everyday job should it ever be required. I am also hoping to visit Vulpro and learn about the work done there as again I work with four species of vultures at the zoo and Vulpro is another conservation project supported by Action for the Wild.”

Whilst Angela is away she’ll be writing a blog on her experience and we will share this with you on her return so check back soon for more information.

If you would like to help support this project as well as many other projects worldwide please visit for information on how to donate.

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