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About

Discover our story : our mission and guiding principles

Conservation, research & education

Kaludiyapokuna Primate Conservation & Research Center

Our Mission

Our mission is to use interdisciplinary scientific approaches to provide data driven recommendations for the endangered primates of Sri Lanka. Our mission is influenced by the guiding principles that conservation decisions should be data driven and should involve the participation of local stakeholders. In line with our mission and guiding principles, we are also invested in developing conservation capacity by providing employment, internships, and volunteer opportunities for both Sri Lankan and international students. By developing conservation capacity, we aim to provide stakeholders in Sri Lanka with knowledge are training necessary to participate in sustainable conservation.

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Study site

The Kaludiyapokuna Forest Reserve (N 07° 52.507, E080° 44.117) (KFR)is located in Dambulla, in the Matale District in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The study site supports populations of all three diurnal Sri Lankan primates, the Toque monkey (Macaca sinica), the purple faced langur (Semnopithecus vetulus) and the gray langur (Semnopithecus priam). Of these primates, the Toque macaque and the purple-faced langur are endemic to Sri Lanka. Unlike other study sites in Sri Lanka, is relatively undisturbed by humans. Hence, the study site is ideally suited to the collection of long-term data on wild primates.

The vegetation at the site is typical of the dry zone of Sri Lanka: a dry mixed evergreen forest with trees not exceeding 20-25 m. The region receives about 1000 mm of rain and has a marked dry period from June to August.

Apart from primates, the study site supports populations of other herbivorous mammals such as Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), spotted deer (Axis axis), sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), and wild pig (Sus scrofa) and a complement of potential primate predators such as the black eagle (Ictinaetusmalayensis), leopard (Panthera pardus) and python (Python molurus).

Our camp

Our current base of operation is located 3.5 km from KaludiyaPokuna Forest. The project operates out of two field houses, which provide living quarters and a basic laboratory, a dining area, and a small kitchen. Research assistants live in shared quarters and have access to clean running water and electricity.

For research assistants, life in the field comprises forest days and camp days. A typical forest day starts at 6AM, when you travel to the field site on a motorcycle or a tuk tuk. There, you will find and follow groups of monkeys and record data until 6PM. When you get back to camp, you will back up the data into the project laptop and external hard drives. You will clean these data on your camp days. Besides data cleaning, you will also have other responsibilities on camp days. These responsibilities include cleaning your living quarters, preparing sample tubes and equipment, shopping for essentials, and if you so desire, help make delicious rotis for lunch on the following days. All research assistants have days off every month, on which you are welcome to stay in camp or travel around.

Research

Traits of resilience: Behavioral and gut microbial differences between two sympatric langur species in Sri Lanka

Our project focuses on Purple-faced langurs (Semnopithecus vetulus) and tufted gray langurs (Semnopithecus priam thersites), two species that have responded to habitat loss in dramatically different ways – while the tufted gray langur (Semnopithecus priam) has remained relatively ubiquitous, successfully ranging across fragmented and urban landscapes, the critically endangered, purple-faced langur (Semnopithecus vetelus) is largely isolated to forest fragments and gardens. This study seeks to examine the behavioral and physiological characteristics that might explain these patterns, focusing on sympatric gray and purple-faced langurs in Kaludiyapokuna Forest Reserve, in SriLanka.

Assessing the extent and consequences of hybridization

The Kaludiyapokuna Forest Reserve also offers an ideal opportunity to examine hybridization between purple-faced and gray langurs. Previous studies at the reserve, have described mix-species associations, mating attempts between gray langur males and female, purple-faced langurs, and morphological characteristics of potential hybrids. Currently, efforts are underway to use molecular genetic methods to determine the extent of hybridization.

Determining extent of occupancy of purple-faced langurs and other primates in dry zone forest habitats

The dry semi-evergreen forests are of strategic importance to the conservation of Sri Lanka’s primates as they support populations of all four species. However, these forests are the fastest disappearing forest type on the island and hence, the long-term survival of Sri Lanka’s primates is under threat. Currently, efforts are underway to determine the fine scale distribution of purple-faced langurs and other primates in the dry zone forests using recce transects and passive acoustic monitoring.