Conservation Asia 2016: Primate Conservation in Asia
The Conservation Asia conference really made a difference, said Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) Board Member Vilma D’Rozario as she talked about her impressions of the event. About six hundred like-minded participants had the chance to hear renowned speakers as well as veterans from the field talk about their research and the latest innovations, such as technology trapping and trapping data analysis. “I learned a lot in the presentations,” D’Rozario said, “particularly about primate conservation in Asia, how research is translated into practical solutions and solutions for community-based outreach.”
JGIS board members Andie Ang and Vilma D'Rosario
Speakers at the session on Primate Conservation in Asia, which D’Rozario co-chaired, talked about a wide range of primates including long-tailed macaques, leaf monkeys, eastern hoolock gibbons, orangutans, slow loris, and dusky langurs. Topics that they discussed included the ranging behavior of primates, noninvasive research, habitat suitability, forest structures, research on nutrition, community-based initiatives, human-primate management strategies, and the ecological functions of primates. “That’s diverse and wide-ranging,” D’Rozario commented.
There was also much discussion about agro-business and how can it be improved. “That discussion was dominated by Western experts,” D’Rozario said, “primarily conservationists based in Asia who are trying to get business and conservation together.”
Speakers highlighted that there is still a tremendous need for more research and biodiversity surveys throughout Asia. Myanmar Researcher Naw May Lay Thant said that although she had done surveys on gibbons, for example, more research by local researchers is needed. “While you could see that non-local international participants are doing so much research,” D’Rozario said, “our symposium had more Asian speakers than Western-based individuals.” Despite that prevalence of Asian speakers, she said “more still needs to be done to encourage local research and researchers. There is still a gap.”
There are two additional areas in particular where more research is needed, according to one keynote speaker at the conference. One is to examine how to change human behavior instead of just conducting research on animals, and the other is to investigate how hunting is involved in species degradation as well as measures to avert hunting. “No one is studying how much hunting and human behavior are wrecking planet earth.”
The priorities that came out of the Primate session, D’Rozario said, were preventing deforestation and the need for habitat protection. “People were talking about degraded landscapes and agro-business. There needs to be much more habitat protection,” she said.
A key result of the conference itself, D’Rozario observed, was two declarations. One was on ways in which governments and communities can stamp out illegal wildlife trade, and the other was on how business can help conservation in terms of both funding and greater participation. “My sense was that they pointed this in the direction of Singapore, as a business hub, being able to take the lead in Asia in conservation and business.”
What impressed her the most, she said, was how much all the participants were inspired to action and came away ready to do more for conservation in Asia.
Conservation Asia 2016: Boosting Primate Research in Asia
The Conservation Asia 2016 conference in general and the Primate Conservation in Asia session in particular were great networking platforms, said primatologist and Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) board member Andie Ang. The sessions brought together primate researchers from all across Asia so they could share their knowledge and experience, and discuss opportunities for collaboration. “While working on our own research, especially when it is on one population of one species or in one habitat, we often get so narrowly focused that we may lose sight of the bigger perspectives. A key advantage of the conference was that we got to learn more about other conservation perspectives, which could help greatly in improving our own research work.”
Primatologists and JGIS board members at the Primate Conservation in Asia session
One of the biggest gaps in Asia, Ang said, is the lack of knowledge and interest in some of the less charismatic species. “Even though Asia is home to some 119 non-human primate species,” she highlighted, “only a few, such as orangutans and proboscis monkeys, are well-known to the general public. Populations of some of the less-well-known primates, which are also highly threatened, may go extinct even before there is support to help conserve them.”
A key primate conservation priority highlighted at the Primate Conservation in Asia session, Ang said, was the need to nurture and support local primatologists in their research work. “Although many foreign researchers have good intentions about helping to conserve primate species in their habitats, it is sometimes difficult for them to return to these places and continue to contribute to conservation in the long term after they complete their project.” Speakers highlighted that it is vital to encourage and support local researchers in order to ensure the future of primate conservation in Asia.
While there is clearly a need for more Asian researchers and much more to be done, the networking and learning opportunities participants found at the conference helped to bridge the gap and inspire them to do even more to enhance primate conservation in the region.
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