Physiological and Behavioral Effects of Capture Darting on Red Colobus Monkeys (Procolobus rufomitratus) with a Comparison to Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) Predation
Understanding how human activities affect wild primates is critical to the design of effective conservation strategies. Despite this need, few studies have examined the physiological and behavioral effects of field research methods in the wild. Here, we examine how the stress response, i.e., fecal cortisol, and behavior of Ugandan red colobus monkeys (Procolobus rufomitratus) in Kibale National Park are affected by chemical immobilization and collaring, i.e., capture. We compare this anthropogenic stressor to a naturally occurring stressor: a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) predation attack. Two adult males had peak cortisol levels of 283 and 284 ng/g 2–3 d after capture, which were 190% and 182% above their baseline levels, i.e., the first sample taken immediately after capture, but these peak levels did not remain elevated. Using long-term data, i.e., 11 mo of data, we found no difference in fecal cortisol levels between 10 darted and collared individuals and 14 individuals living in the same social group that were not darted or collared. For the chimpanzee attack, peak fecal cortisol levels (147–211% above baseline) were recorded 1–4 d after the attack, but these levels also did not remain elevated for long. These data show that darting and collaring and a chimpanzee predation attempt caused an acute stress response, but neither leads to sustained elevated cortisol levels. Thus, in situations in which research contributes significantly to the conservation of primates and cannot be conducted noninvasively, capture darting appears to be a useful technique with minimal long-term effects as long as injury and mortality are avoided. However, we encourage researchers to make similar physiological and behavioral comparisons in other field studies using similar techniques to provide a better understanding of the effects of research practices on the stress physiology and social behavior of wild primates.
KeywordsChemical immobilization Environmental endocrinology Fecal cortisol Predator effects Primate conservation Research effects
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