Learning to sense danger

Published: Friday 31 October 1997

endangered monkeys can now be taught to avoid human poachers. Researchers have discovered that the Diana monkey, Cercopithecus diana, in Cte dIvoire 's Tai National Park have learnt to evade human hunters by distinguishing the calls of jungle animals from trick calls made by poachers. When a monkey sees or hears a human, it usually stays silent. But when monkeys hear animal calls indicating the presence of a predator such as a leopard, they scream and group together. Redousan Bshary of the Max Planck Instate for Behavioural Physiology in Seewiesen played tapes of imitation eagle as well as authentic eagle calls in both poached and unpoached areas. In the 20 groups of monkeys in the unpoached areas, the animals were deceived every time. But in the heavily poached areas, only two of 10 groups were tricked by the fake eagle call and only one group in eight fell for the imitation cry.

Bshary is passing his research results to the World Wide Fund for Nature in the hope that the findings can be used for the protection of endangered monkeys.

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