Monkey kingdom in peril | Sunday Observer

Monkey kingdom in peril

17 October, 2021

WNPS Monthly lecture, Monkey kingdom in peril will be delivered online by ProfWolfgang Dittus on October 21 at 6 pm via Zoom and FB live.

Throughout human history in Sri Lanka, the rise and fall of kingdoms and shifting cultivation have left their mark on the landscape and affected local monkey population to their advantage or disadvantage variably through time. In the last century however, rapid human population growth has shifted the balance: non-human primate species are progressively more vulnerable to extinction through competition for living space with humans.

Can a change in human attitudes by itself change this trajectory? As a starting point to this inquiry, we assessed how Sri Lankans who already share space with monkeys perceive their relationship to monkeys and their suggested solutions to reducing conflict.

Tolerance in sharing space with monkeys undoubtedly are critical for conservation; yet such human sentiments for co-existence might be most productively channelled to support the strengthening of exclusive protected nature reserves for all wildlife with habitat sharing as a secondary and supplemental option.

Professor Wolfgang Dittus has been studying the Primates of Sri Lanka, in particular the Toque Macaques (Macaca sinica) in the Archaeological Reserve at Polonnaruwa for 50 years. His scientific discoveries have given us new insights on the evolution of social behaviour and life histories of Primates, their genetic structure, epidemiology and conservation. He has shown that many human social predispositions trace their roots to behaviour that are well developed in monkey societies, such as family life, child rearing practices, tribal conflicts, socio-economic hierarchies, choice of mates, even our gestures of communication.

He has contributed many scientific publications and more than 30 international documentary films; including “Temple Troop” and Disney Nature’s “Monkey Kingdom.” Dr. Dittus and his team of Sri Lankan naturalists also investigate gray and purple-faced langur species and the nocturnal slender loris.

Prof Wolfgang Dittus, PhD is a visiting research Professor, National Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research Associate, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, USA, and the Chairman of Association for the Conservation of Primate Diversity.