Durham research filmed for TV by baboons

By Martha Bozic

On Thursday 8th February, research from the Durham University Department of Anthropology graced the screens of the nation.

The Primate and Predator Project, headed up by Professor Russell Hill, was featured on the BBC One programme Animals with Cameras. The show sees the world from an animal’s point of view – quite literally – as footage is taken from cameras attached to their bodies.

Studies forming part of the Primate and Predator Project have focused on the ecology of local species in the Soutpansberg mountain range in South Africa, looking at the threat that humans pose to their conservation. Animals with Cameras concentrated on the Project’s work with local farmers, which aimed to reduce crop raiding by baboons.

Hill said that the Project came about ‘by chance’ after a PhD student was forced to relocate the focal point of his studies when an airline lost his bags. Their new host, Professor Ian Gaigher, has since become a long-term collaborator with the University.

The baboons are shown running wild over a plot of butternut squash – a problem which has led to some farmers shooting them.

The team try to integrate their work with the local community, and look to understand the human side of the conflict with conservation. In particular, Hill says that the farmers suffer from ‘very real economic losses’ when livestock and crops are damaged by local animals. Such mutual understanding is important for the Project to be sustainable.

In the clip, the baboons are shown running wild over a plot of butternut squash – a problem which has led to some farmers shooting them in an attempt at damage control. After cameras are attached to some of the monkeys, the conservation researchers find that they prefer wild fruits to butternuts, increased planting of which presents a more sustainable and peaceful solution.

(Image: Charlesjsharp via Wikimedia Commons)

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