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Durham University

Research & business

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Mr Pedro Méndez-Carvajal, BSc. Animal Biology, MSc Primate Conservation

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(email at p.g.mendez@durham.ac.uk)

I graduated with a BSc in Animal Biology at the University of Panama in 2001, and obtained my MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University, UK, in 2008. Before joining Durham Anthropology Department, I have been a collaborator, research associate, intern, and PI on various projects related to ornithology, entomology, and plants for various organizations and companies, including the University of Panama, the Environmental Authority of Panama, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Peregrine Fund, the Florida Museum of Natural History, the BBC, MWH Panama S.A. This gave me experience various ecosystems in Panama, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and the Everglades in the USA.

I started my own project with the desire to increase scientific knowledge about Panamanian primates, and particularly for those living in highly fragmented habitats outside the Natural Reserves and National Parks. My main interest is the study of mammalian diversity, ecology, and conservation, particularly non-human primates. In 2010, following earlier projects, I founded the Fundación Pro-Conservación de los Primates Panameños (FCPP, Conservation Foundation for Panamanian Primates), the first non-governmental organization in Panama dedicated to the study and conservation of non-human primates, involving both graduate students and local people as an important target for environmental education.

I have focused my conservation efforts on Critically Endangered species in Panama: the Azuero spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis), the Azuero howler monkey (Alouatta coibensis trabeata) and the Darien black spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps rufiventris). My project also uses camera-traps at canopy level and mist-nets to study bats, as part of a broader study of the habitat.

I have been a mammal tracking instructor for private companies, and advisor for the environmental authority of Panama, I am a member of the Panamanian Society of Biology, the Primates Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and a member of the Primate Thematic Group of the Mesoamerican Society. In Durham I am part of the Primatology Group and the Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution Research.

I am a PhD candidate at Durham University in the field of Biological Anthropology. My project, entitled "Conserving primates in highly deforested habitats: a case study in Panama" uses the data I have collected over the last 15 years to evaluate the effectiveness of my conservation activities, and to evaluate the current distribution of primates in Panama, using ecological modelling. I hope to establish a realistic conservation plan that could be applicable in other countries that share similar threats to non-human primates.

 My PhD project is a collaboration between Durham University, the FCPP, the Instituto para la Formación y Aprovechamiento de los Recursos Humanos de Panamá and the Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología de Panamá.

Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Research Interests

  • Primate Conservation

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2015: IUCN Primate Specialist Group Workshop 2015:

    On behalf of the Red List Authority of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, I was invited to a workshop to reassess all Neotropical primates on the IUCN Red List (26th-29th January 2015 at Houston Zoo, Texas.

  • 2014: Anthropology Department/Durham University, :

    To participate of the Red List Authority of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, to be held on 26th-29th January 2015, at Houston Zoo, Texas, USA.

  • 2014: II Rufford Small Grants:

    The FCPP is studying the endemic Darien Black Spider Monkey Ateles fusciceps rufiventris, unique of Darien, Critically Endangered Species. This is the first time an ecological project has been conducted for this species since its last scientific description in Panama, by Kellogg and Goldman (1944). We are using the Orion Camera System (OCS) to monitor arboreal fauna at canopy, a technique that is facilitating to understand the actual diversity and circadian activity of the arboreal fauna. Data obtained will be important to inform the locals and the Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM), about how is the ecology and mammal diversity in this area poorly studied, and will release new information about habitat use to better protect these mammals from the deforestation.

    The project also involves local people, who receive environmental information and training to value and conserve their natural resources as a part of our team. Informative talks, t-shirts with messages and bookmarks have been distributed around the near towns, restaurants and public transportation to create conscience about habitat loss and poachers effects in this monkey and its environment. The spider monkey of Darien is one of the larger pollinators and seed dispersers that help directly with the survivorship of other terrestrial mammals, supplying them with fruits that fall down while the monkeys are eating. We thank very much the II Rufford Small Grants for their support conserving this important non-human primate in Panama.

  • 2014: Oxford Brookes University: To participate in a monkey monday seminar at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK. To present Orion Camera System (OCS), a new method to set camera traps at canopy without climbing trees.
  • 2010: Rufford Small Grants:

    The Project is contributing with basic and important information of three of the less known Primates in Central America (distribution, population and conservation status), the endemic and Critically Endangered Azuero howler and Azuero spider monkeys as well the Vulnerable Coiba Island howler monkey (following IUCN red list).

    The surveys done at the moment have calculated their actual population which enforces our fight of conservation for these animals in Panama. This is a long term project for Azuero Peninsula primates since 2001, but we would like to expand this dynamic to the Coiba Island this year. Our crew inform forest rangers of the Environmental Authority of Panama and biologist volunteers to keep collecting data in their original area; the data is used to analyze ecological issues related with those animals and their surrounded fauna.

    This project is also informing and educating the local people about friendly techniques to conserve their environment, including the use of the living fences, which is an old farm technique that helps the primates in deforested areas to keep connected with gallery forest and reserves. In resume, the contributions of our project is at scientific and community level. The volunteers that we are training are biologist from the University of Panama and some of them will be our future Primatologists.

    This project is also trying to add younger scientist to our crew to implement better techniques, criteria and increase the study of Primatology in Panama.

Selected Publications

Journal Article

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

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  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences:
  • Ecosystems:
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