When primate rescue centers take in injured or orphaned animals of unthreatened species, the motivation is animal welfare and the goal is successful rehabilitation and eventual release into the wild. Choosing appropriate sites for releasing rehabilitated animals can be highly challenging due to limited resources.
In this study, focused on finding optimum release sites for rehabilitated vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, researchers create an environmental model based on own sightings, literature, and GBIF-mediated occurrences of wild monkeys. They refine the output by excluding urban areas and roads, while ensuring proximity to fresh water sources, considered to be the most important factor for successful release.
Initially, the authors identify 80 per cent of KwaZulu-Natal to be suitable habitat, but applying refinements reduce this to 298 areas of a combined 6,225 km², equivalent to about six per cent of the total area. Unfortunately, a large proportion of these areas are found within protected land with non-release policies.
While using modelling for choosing release sites doesn’t guarantee success, the approach identifies the best candidate sites for pre-release surveys, a critical aspect of successful rehabilitation in the wild.