Showing posts with label Wild Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wild Life. Show all posts

May 23, 2019

The Monkeys of Puerto Rico Were Decimated but Still The Few Left Can Teach Us Something

A female monkey carries her baby on her back on Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island, in Puerto Rico, Oct. 4, 2017. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)
A female monkey carries her baby on her back on Cayo Santiago, known as 
Monkey Island, in Puerto Rico, Oct. 4, 2017. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s "monkey island." The surviving primates have a lot to teach us about surviving trauma.


Luke Dittrich, contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. Author of "Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets."
Michael Platt, director of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative and James S. Riepe professor of neuroscience, psychology and marketing at the University of Pennsylvania. (@MichaelLouisPl1)
Athena Viscusi, psychological care specialist at Doctors Without Borders. (@MSF_USA)

The Inhabitants Of Puerto Rico's Cayo Santiago

From The Reading List

New York Times Magazine: "Primal Fear: Can Monkeys Help Unlock the Secrets of Trauma?" — "On Valentine’s Day, 2018, five months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Daniel Phillips stood at the edge of a denuded forest on the eastern half of a 38-acre island known as Cayo Santiago, a clipboard in his hand, his eyes on the monkeys. The island sits about a half-mile off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, near a village called Punta Santiago. Phillips and his co-workers left the mainland shortly after dawn, and the monkeys had already begun to gather by the time they arrived, their screams and oddly birdlike chirps louder than the low rumble of the motorboat that ferried the humans.
"The monkeys were everywhere. Some were drinking from a large pool of stagnant rainwater; some were grooming each other, nit-picking; some were still gnawing on the plum-size pellets of chow that Phillips hurled into the crowd a half-hour before. Two sat on the naked branch of a tree, sporadically mating. They were all rhesus macaques, a species that grows to a maximum height of about two and a half feet and a weight of about 30 pounds. They have long, flexible tails; dark, expressive eyes; and fur ranging from blond to dark brown.
"Phillips’s notebook was full of empty tables. There were places for the monkeys’ ID numbers, which were tattooed on their chests and inner thighs, places for a description of their behavior, places for the time of day. There was a place for his own name, too, and he wrote it at the top of each page. Daniel Phillips is not a Puerto Rican name, whatever that means, but he was born here, in a big hospital in Fajardo. He arrived more than a month early and spent his first weeks in an incubator, but grew up to be a high school and college wrestler; as a biology major, he became interested in monkeys, and was invited by a primatologist from Duke University to take a job as a research assistant here on Cayo Santiago.
"Like humans, rhesus macaques possess advanced problem-solving skills and opposable thumbs and have been known to use tools. They have complex emotional and social lives. Although chimpanzees and a few other ape species are closer cousins to humans — we share approximately 93 percent of our DNA with macaques and 98 percent with chimps — macaques are easier to manage and less protected by regulations, which is partly why they account for 65 percent of research on nonhuman primate subjects funded by the National Institutes of Health."
The Atlantic: "Rescuing Puerto Rico's Monkey Island" — "Off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, barely a kilometer from the mainland, lies the tiny island of Cayo Santiago. Its 38 acres, shaped like a lowercase r, are home to some unexpected residents—a troop of around 1,000 rhesus macaque monkeys.
"Rhesus macaques typically live half a world away in Southeast Asia. But after 406 of them were shipped over in 1938, they quickly took to Caribbean life, and thrived. So did the scientists who work with them. The island has become something of a destination for primatologists. It’s so small, and the monkeys so plentiful and habituated, that even though they are fully wild creatures, they are very easy to track and observe. The last time I spoke to someone on the island—James Higham from New York University—he was standing a few meters away from a female and a male, who were boisterously mating.
"Cayo Santiago’s macaques are now among the best-studied primates anywhere on the planet. For 79 years and 9 generations, their births, deaths, and group dynamics have all been charted. Researchers have looked at their group dynamics, parenting styles, mental abilities, how their genes affect their social lives, how scratching helps them cope with conflict. 'Many of our early discoveries about primate communication and behavior were discovered there,' says Laurie Santos from Yale University. 'It’s an iconic place in primate behavior and science more generally.' "
The Atlantic: "Inherited Trauma Shapes Your Health" — "Often when I complain to my therapist about how stressed out I am by a problem I’m having, she says a variation on the same thing:
"'Well, like all Ashkenazi Jews, you have a lot of intergenerational trauma. You know, because of everything that’s ... happened.'
"Of course you’re anxious, she seems to say; you’re Jewish! I think it’s meant to help me feel more at peace with my emotions, but I must admit I find this response deeply unsatisfying.
"I am, of course, grateful that my life is easier than the lives of my relatives—Jewish and otherwise—who survived World War II. At the same time, I can’t do anything about the fact that the Holocaust happened, so I don’t want to spend time thinking about its effects on my cortisol levels. I can, however, write the perfect email to get myself out of a scrape, or find a way to stop thinking about why I didn’t get some plaudit or another.
"'The Jews have nothing to do with it!' I always want to say in response, as though I’m debunking some George Soros–related conspiracy.
"But a growing body of evidence suggests my therapist might be right and I’m wrong.
"The most recent chapter is a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week by researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research. They found that the sons of Union Army soldiers who endured grueling conditions as prisoners of war were more likely to die young than the sons of soldiers who were not prisoners. This is despite the fact that the sons were born after the war, so they couldn’t have experienced its horrors personally. In other words, it seemed like the stresses of war were getting passed down between generations."
Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

August 25, 2014

Drones to the Rescue: Protecting wild life



Robots are catching poachers red-handed and giving biologists a cheap way to keep tabs on endangered animals.

 Drones may have acquired a Terminator-like reputation as robotic agents of destruction, but when it comes to wildlife, they’re more like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: They’re here tp.              
Environmentalists are dispatching drones to help save dolphins at the cove in Taiji, Japan, and whales in the Faeroe Islands. In Costa Rica, meanwhile, conservationist commandos deploy an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to intercept illegal fishing boats in a marine sanctuary in the latest episode of The Operatives, a new television series that airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Pivot TV, the television network owned by Participant Media, TakePart’s parent company. (A preview is above.)
The use of drones for conservation purposes is in its infancy, but the technology holds great promise for conducting censuses on wildlife, monitoring habitat, and performing other biological research. They are also well suited for use in combat zones and for fighting animal poaching and smuggling.
There’s another big bonus: Researchers don’t have to risk dying in small-plane crashes, the leading cause of death among wildlife biologists, according to a 2003 study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.
In other words, drones can protect the lives of scientists as well as the animals they are studying.
But drones’ greatest strength is that they’re cheap: They can be operated for a fraction of the cost of conventional airplanes and helicopters, experts say.
“I’m very positive on the potential of these systems, or I wouldn’t have been working with them for as long as I have,” said Franklin Percival, a United States Geological Survey researcher who works with the University of Florida. “It’s extraordinarily exciting for a guy nearing retirement at 71.”
Percival avoids the word “drone,” preferring to call them UAVs. Drones, he said, are weaponized killing machines deployed by the military, whereas UAVs are armed only with
One organization spearheading the use of drones is Conservation Drones. Founded just two years ago, the group has helped hundreds of nonprofits, scientists, and government officials in more than a dozen countries.
 Ecologists Lian Pin Koh and Serge Wich, the cofounders of Conservation Drones, first got the idea to use UAVs from Wich’s 20 years of studying orangutans in Indonesia. Koh had begun flying remote-controlled airplanes as a hobby and one day suggested that they attempt to send one of the toy planes aloft, with cameras attached, over a forested area of Sumatra.
The resulting photographs offered high enough resolutions to not only count orangutan nests but discern the kinds of leaves and twigs used to build them.
The total cost for one drone was less than $1,000, far below the cost of renting an airplane or a helicopter or sending researchers, their gear, and food into the forest on foot.
Today UAVs are helping conduct wildlife research around the world.
In Colorado, for example, researchers with the USGS found that drone surveys of migrating sandhill cranes were more accurate than ground studies, in part because the UAVs can fly over nesting areas without scaring the birds away.
Percival’s team from the University of Florida has flown drones to complete an accurate census of nesting waterfowl in that state, where 20,000 nests can be found in a two-mile stretch. The drones take thousands of GPS-stamped photos. The photos are patched together by computers and let researchers identify every single bird.
UAVs are not foolproof. “There’s a cost to working with things that are not fully baked yet," Percival said, the vehicles’ limited geographic range and their tendency to crash. "There are tons of limitations and drawbacks." 
“Things can go wrong,” he said. “What goes up is going to come down, and it will land 100 percent of the time, but not just like you want it to.”
Drones can also be a hazard to aircraft, which has led the Federal Aviation Administration to strictly regulate their use.
UAVs can also disturb the wildlife they were meant to monitor and annoy visitors who come to see the animals, according to the National Park Service, which has banned the use of conservation drones at a number of parks and monuments in Utah and Arizona, including Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. The NPS plans to extend the ban to some 84 million acres of public land and waterways.
Drones are not only helpful for conservation; they are ideal for filmmakers producing documentaries about conservation. 

Louie Psihoyos, director of the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the annual dolphin slaughter in Japan, used a drone to film one of the last scenes in the movie.
“We knew it would be dramatic to shoot the red blood and get a sense of scale of what the cove looked like,” he said. Even though he deployed a noisy, gas-powered vehicle (most drones today are electric and virtually silent), “the fishermen doing their dirty deeds never even noticed it.”
Psihoyos agreed that drones are not perfect. His company has lost three of its four UAVs in crashes.
“One outing on a drone can cost about 10 percent of renting an airplane and pilot,” he said, “as long as you don’t lose the whole thing in the water.”

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