Primatology & Ecology Field School in Kenya

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Conducted by Rutgers University, the
National Museums of Kenya and Kenya Wildlife Services
at Tana River Primate National Reserve, Mount Kenya
& the Laikipia Plateau

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This field school will give participants the opportunity to experience the diverse habitats of Kenya, and to gain understanding about biodiversity by using primate field studies as the entry point. Participants will be exposed to specific conservation problems and emerging innovative solutions that are contextually and culturally different than any they will find elsewhere.

The curriculum will comprise lectures, readings, and discussions on important concepts in primatology and conservation biology. We will review important notions in primate behavioral ecology, and learn about primate behavior and ecological data collection. The core of the field school will be training and practice of field methods. Participants will learn how to census primates, study social behavior and habitat use, practice animal identification, time budget analysis via scan and focal animal sampling, and how to measure habitat use. In order to expose participants to methods used to study primates found in different habitat types, the field school will be conducted in two ecologically different sites: a tropical dry forest ecosystem in the Tana River Primate National Reserve (TRPNR) at the coast, and a savanna woodland ecosystem on the Laikipia Plateau in central Kenya

TRPNR is a forest reserve established in 1976 measuring 167 km 2 in area. It is the only reserve in the world dedicated solely to conservation of primates. TRPNR is home to eight nonhuman primate species including the Tana River red colobus, Tana River crested mangabey, Syke’s monkeys, baboons and vervet monkeys, as well ass three prosimians- the lesser, greater and Garnet’s galagos. Both the red colobus and crested mangabey are endemic to the area and are ranked among the world’s top 25 most endangered primate species. The forests contain a high diversity of other species of rare plants and animals, and are designated a global biodiversity hotspot. Three indigenous groups of people live within the vicinity of the reserve, including the Pokomo people, who practice an agro-pastoral lifestyle.

The Laikipia Plateau in central Kenya stretches from the slopes of Mount Kenya to the edge of the Great Rift Valley in the east. This region boasts as the only area in Kenya where wildlife numbers are actually increasing, due to a range of innovative sanctuaries and reserves where the field school will visit and study. At the Mt. Kenya Animal Orphanage you will be introduced to a plethora of Kenyan wildlife including Black and White colobus monkeys, the endemic Bongo and cheetahs! At Mpala Research Station you will become privy to current field research being done in Kenya, such as a Grevy’s zebra conservation project conducted by wildlife ecologists from Princeton University. At the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee sanctuary you will learn about conservation and wildlife management strategies and observe chimps that have been rescued from the Bushmeat trade. At Mugie ranch you will encounter one of the last strongholds of Kenya’s highly endangered Black rhino populations, conduct a systematic vegetation study, as well as observe radio-collared lions which are part of the Laikipia Predator Project.

The Field School Director:

Dr. Jack Harris is a professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He has over thirty years experience working and doing field research in Kenya. As one of the foremost paleoanthropologist in the world (and as the director of the Koobi Fora Field School) Dr. Harris brings a unique prespective to the field school. Every year Dr. Harris brings students to the Segara Ranch in Lakipia for wildlife ecology studies and he is looking forward to this field study session with its focus on primates. Jack Harris is the author of numerous monographs and articles in the field of Human origins and has been featured on several television documentaries.

The field school is staffed by American, Kenyan and South African researchers and support staff including M. Bamford, Wittswaterstand University; D. Rubenstein, Princeton University; T. Kariuki, Director of the Institute of Primate Research, Nairobi; S. Kasiki, Director of Research, Kenya Wildlife Services; and Peter Fundi, Mt. Kenya Animal Orphanage.