A History of Primate Reintroduction



Dr. Benjamin Beck

Foreword to

A History of Primate Reintroduction


Benjamin B. Beck

Scientist Emeritus, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

© 2017



Attached is A History of Primate Reintroduction. The History is a fully copyrighted and protected book that is being published on this website for broad, rapid, and free distribution and review. I like to think of the History as a tool for colleagues and students (and anybody else who is interested), present and future, to increase the efficiency and success of future reintroductions and to improve the wellbeing of reintroduced primates.


The History provides as much descriptive information about each reintroduction program as I could find. For some programs I’ve added some subjective impressions of the human and nonhuman primates involved and about the program’s context. The appended table summarizes the descriptive information.


I was able to document 202 primate reintroduction programs (please see Definitions, pp. 238-246) that involved 22,999 individual prosimians, monkeys, and apes. The precision of that number is misleading because some sources do not state how many primates were actually reintroduced, and at least one program probably exaggerated the number that were released.


The term Reintroduction is used in the History as a generic term that includes Translocation, Reintroduction (sensu strictu), and Introduction (please see definitions).


I was invited by Serge Wich and Andy Marshall in 2014 to write a chapter on primate reintroduction as a conservation strategy for their book An Introduction to Primate Conservation. I quickly began to suspect that for primates, reintroduction was less a conservation strategy for primate populations than a strategy for enhancing welfare of individual primates. I wrote the chapter knowing that I was aware of only a small proportion, perhaps 25%, of all primate reintroduction projects. I decided to write a complete history of primate reintroduction, which has taken about three years. I was completely unprepared for the magnitude of the history, never imagining that I would find 202 programs and almost 23,000 reintroduced primates.


I sensed that more wild-born primates had been reintroduced than captive-borns, and that welfare-based reintroductions were more frequent than conservation-based reintroductions. These became “hypotheses”.


Of the total of 22,999 reintroduced primates, 22,052 (96%) were wild-born and 947 (4%) were captive-born. Zoos, aquaria, arboreta, and other captive breeding institutions can justly be proud of providing captive-born animals and plants for conservation-based reintroductions, but, with regard to primates, the claims should be moderated.


I attributed, where possible, a primary and secondary purpose for each of the 202 programs (see Definitions). A primary purpose could be attributed for 193 of the 202 programs and a secondary purpose could be attributed for 102 of the 202 programs. I calculated the percentages of the 295 purposes combined. Conservation was a primary or secondary purpose of 41 (13.9%) of the programs, and Welfare was a primary or secondary purpose of 136 (46.1%) of the programs. The breakdown of the most common purposes is shown in Figure 1:


Purposes of Primate Reintroductions

I take this to mean that, with regard to primates, welfare-motivated reintroduction practitioners are/were far more numerous than conservation-motivated practitioners. Guidelines for primate reintroduction should reflect this reality and address welfare-motivated reintroductions.


I used two criteria for success, a lower bar (survival of some of the released individuals for at least one year, and integration with wild conspecifics or post-release reproduction, and ability to survive without provisioning or human support) and a higher bar (contributed to the establishment of a self-sustaining wild population). I was pleasantly surprised that 63 of the 202 (31%) programs attained the less demanding criterion of success and that 32 (16%) also reached both the less and the more demanding criteria. Thus 95 of the 202 (47%) programs were successful as defined by the less demanding criterion.


The History will support an almost endless supply of other conclusions, relationships, and comparisons. I will leave this to others but please share your findings with all.



Thanks in advance to those who will respond to this first edition. I also wish to thank Sian Evans of the DuMond Conservancy for bringing some projects to my attention and for making her libraries available. Others who provided historical details and data, or linked me to additional contacts, are Jim Anderson, Claudine Andre, Walter Angst, Paul Beaver, Janis Carter, Arnold Chamove, Leif Cocks, Debbie Cox, Andrea Donaldson, Tom Defler, Brian Hare, Satoshi Hirata, Rob Horwich, Cecilia Kierulff, Tony King, Bill McGrew, Russ Mittermeier, Dominique Morel, Carlos Ruiz-Miranda, Anthony Rylands, Rob Shumaker, Tara Stoinski, Caroline Tutin, and Missy Williams.


Stephanie Fowler and Patty Gregorio of Salt Water Media in Berlin, Maryland helped with the format and layout. The History is copyrighted. Feel free to cite and use it as a reference and for teaching. The proper citation is:


Beck, B.B. 2017. A History of Primate Reintroduction. Accessed at www.drbenjaminbeck.com


Finally, I am grateful to the 22,999 primates who were compelled to participate in these endeavors. Their individual health and wellbeing were not always foremost in our intentions.


Benjamin B. Beck, 8 July 2017


Please note that this work is protected under copyright status. However, use of this research, data table, and charts are allowed as long as proper citations and credits are attributed to this author, Dr. Benjamin B. Beck.


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