Welfare based primate rehabilitation as a potential conservation strategy: does it measure up?

14 January 2014 Science News

Primates | Guy, Curnoe and Banks | January 2014


Many primate species are threatened with extinction and are the focus of extensive conservation efforts including re-introduction, captive breeding and habitat conservation. Welfare-based rehabilitation (hereafter also ‘rehabilitation’) is a management strategy commonly used for primates, particularly those species targeted by the pet and bush meat trades. Rehabilitation of rescued primates typically has the dual motivation of welfare and conservation, but has not been assessed as a conservation strategy. As the species involved in rehabilitation are often endangered (e.g. chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans), it is important for rehabilitation projects to follow a ‘best practice’ model in order to increase positive outcomes. In this study, we compared the approaches of 28 welfare-based primate rehabilitation projects to the ‘IUCN guidelines for nonhuman primate re-introductions’, in addition to components of the ‘Best practice guidelines for the re-introduction of great apes’ in order to assess where additional work might be needed for released animals to contribute to conservation outcomes. Few projects examined complied with the guidelines for re-introduction, failing to incorporate important factors such as quarantine, long term post-release monitoring and training for predator awareness. Further development of species-specific rehabilitation guidelines may improve the outcomes of future rehabilitation projects. To support this, we recommend that detailed methods and results be published for all rehabilitation efforts, regardless of the outcome.

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