Primate Business: Ecological Principles for Primate Conservation
A fundamental aim in ecology is to figure out what regulates animal population density. This has become increasingly important given the need to help endangered species, and is critical for primates because their homes in the tropical forests of the world are rapidly being destroyed.
Until now few studies have gone beyond providing obvious solutions, such as putting a stop to deforestation. Canada Research Chair Dr. Colin Chapman, however, believes that to advance our conservation efforts effectively we need to derive the appropriate guiding principles.
Much of Dr. Chapman's past research has involved developing and testing models dealing with determinants of primate abundance, and attempting to predict how primates respond to disturbances caused by humans. Continuing his research on the endangered red colubus in Kibale National Park Uganda, he is now trying to determine how nutrition and parasitism operate synergistically to influence primate population size.
In addition, Dr. Chapman is looking into the widespread hypothesis that changes wrought by human intervention bring non-human primates into closer contact both with each other and with humans, and that this in turn enhances transmission of microbes between species and the emergence of new diseases. Such transmissions can have dramatic effects as in the case of the Ebola virus, which is believed by some scientists to be the cause, at least in part, of the catastrophic decline in ape populations in Africa.
This hypothesis, however, has never been formally tested, which is why the work being carried out by Dr. Chapman and his collaborators is so important. Using traditional methods from parasitology and exciting new genetic techniques, they are exploring both the role of disease in limiting primate numbers and how diseases "jump" from one species to the next.