Secondary sexual coloration as a tool for the conservation and management of primates

Ayala, James E.
Beth Kaplin, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
Given the increased threat to wildlife, due in part to the increase of anthropogenic disturbances, conservation programs need to include species health assessment and monitoring programs in the repertoire of services. Because of their susceptibility to zoonotic diseases, primates are particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbance and may benefit from increased monitoring, yet disease transmission between researchers and primates creates an additional problem. Primate secondary sexual coloration, in particular color signals, can reveal a plethora of information to the field biologist, as well as the captive manager, from a safe distance. Using digital image analysis techniques, researchers can eavesdrop on the form or visual communication and gain insight into primate health and behavior. Considering the expense and time constraints associated with conservation efforts, color can be a useful, noninvasive tool in obtaining rapid and inexpensive species-specific health and behavioral assessments, thereby reducing the spread of zoonotic disease, the need for immobilizations and lengthy observational studies. The following thesis is a review of what information can be obtained by studying secondary sexual coloration, current methods of analyzing color and how color analysis can be used as a tool to conserve primates.

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