People & GorillasArticles people & gorillas

African Primatologists Form Society

Category: Gorilla Journal, Issue 53, People & Gorillas

It is widely acknowledged that the long-term conservation of African primates depends largely on Africans themselves, and this requires that Africans become more involved and lead efforts to conserve these unique animals. Yet, to date, Africans have remained relatively less active in the field of primatology in Africa. The situation is made worse by the marked lack of coordination of efforts by African primatologists and the lack of a platform to facilitate effective engagement with primatologists and other stakeholders globally.

One consequence of this is the under-representation of Africans at international primatological fora. For example, until the 2016 IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group African Primate Red List Assessment Workshop in Rome, only a few, if any, Africans were able to participate in the Red List Assessment of African primates, which assigns defined threat categories to the different taxa and therefore sets the agenda for conservation interventions. The situation is similar for other international primatological fora such as the International Primatological Society Congresses, convened to share information about research and conservation efforts and to assess the state of the world’s primates, including African primates.

This is in clear contrast to other regions of the world where well established primatological groups, societies, federations or associations exist and facilitate information sharing, coordination of research and conservation efforts, effective representation at international fora. The lack of coordination has also limited the ability of African primatologists to influence policies that impact on African primates and their ability to lend support as a regional group where needed. While there is still a dearth of Africans with expertise in primate research and conservation on the continent, such expertise is undeniably growing and needs to be harnessed for the benefit of African primates.

It was in an effort to fill this gap that the idea of forming an African primate group was conceived. This idea was discussed at a number of meetings and via email leading to the formation in 2013, of the "African Primatologists Working Group" (APWG), which was essentially an email correspondence group coordinated by an ad hoc steering committee. At the 2016 IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group African Primate Red List Assessment Workshop in Rome, the African representatives continued these discussions and officially adopted the name "African Primatological Society (APS)" with a new steering committee constituted to coordinate the activities of the Society.

The APS aims to promote greater involvement of Africans and African leadership in research and conservation of African primates. Specifically the Society aims to promote: 1) information and experience sharing; 2) networking among African primatologists; 3) capacity building towards achieving a critical mass of skilled African primatologists; and 4) greater and more effective representation of African primatologists and conservationists at the international level.

The steering committee is working towards organizing an inaugural Congress of the APS in 2017, where among other things, the structure and operational framework of the APS will be agreed, a constitution for the society adopted and officers elected to lead and coordinate the affairs of the society moving forward. A number of activities have so far been completed under the leadership of the current Steering Committee including:

  • A logo designed
  • Email account created (AfricanPrimateSociety@gmail.com)
  • Facebook page created (https://www.facebook.com/African.Primatological.Society/)
  • Twitter account created (@AfricanPS)
  • Brief communication in African Primates
  • Promotion of the Society at the IPS congress. For the first time, African primatologists gathered at the 2016 IPS Congress in Chicago, USA, as a regional group under the APS! This is only a small first step, but nonetheless a significant one for us and a sign that the APS is here to stay! The announcement of the birth of the APS at the Chicago 2016 IPS Congress was very warmly received, and many who attended the side meeting organized by the APS promised to support the society.
  • Membership form created and circulated for interested persons (Africans and non-Africans) to complete and return with information to create a database of members. It is hoped that everyone will help contact and share the form with primate researchers and conservationists in their countries and sub-regions to gather information for the database.

 

The APS Steering Committee is also working towards 1) creating a fully functional website for the Society and a database of members; 2) organizing an inaugural congress in 2017; and 3) identifying potential partner institutions, donors, and a host institution in Africa (where the society is to be headquartered).

Inaoyom Imong, Rachel Ikemeh, Inza Koné and Denis Ndeloh Etiendem

The African Primatological Society thanks Dr. Stephen Nash for logo design and Conservation International for the opportunity offered to promote the society at the Chicago 2016 IPS Congress.

Correspondence to: Steering Committee

Email: africanprimatesociety@gmail.com; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/African.Primatological.Society/; Twitter: @AfricanPS

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