Diurnal Animal Group (DAGAPIES)

The Diurnal Animal Group (DAGAPIES) studies the three cercopithecoid primate species indigenous to South Africa: samango monkeys (Cercopithecus albogularis, some populations/subspecies of which are endangered); vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops); and chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). We are particularly well-placed to study these species, as all three share the resources of the relict yellow wood forest fragments that clothe the slopes of the Amathole Mountains behind the UFH Alice campus. Our research group operates out of the village of Hogsback, 37 km from Alice, where these species are attempting to hold their own against encroachment from human settlements, forestry plantations and agriculture. The scope of our research projects has been significantly broadened by long-term associations with Paul Grobler (Department of Genetics, University of the Free State) and Trudy Turner (Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee), two of the world’s most experienced researchers in the population and molecular genetics of southern African cercopithecines.

DAGAPIES projects include:

  • Long-term monitoring of troop sizes, composition and ranges of the chacma baboons that interact most frequently with humans in the vicinity of Hogsback village. This project was initiated by Laura Bidner in 2011 during her post-doctoral research fellowship award from the Govan Mbeki Research and Development Centre at UFH. It was continued in 2013 by Master’s interns Marianna Cravero and Selena Esposito of the Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e Biologia dei Sistemi, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy, and currently forms the basis of the Master’s research of Lwandiso Pamla of the APIES team.
  • Mitigation of human-wildlife conflict in the Hogsback region. For their BSc Honours research projects (2013), Dianah Manhanga and Lwandiso Pamla investigated the perceptions and understanding of the human inhabitants of the Hogsback region of their four-handed relatives. Their findings led Dianah and Lwandiso to devise postgraduate research projects that defined divergent but complementary approaches to understanding and resolving areas of tension between the humans and the animals, that could pose threats to the continued survival of non-human primate populations in the southern Amathole region. Both are currently pursuing MSc degrees focussing on the survival of Hogsback’s cercopithecoid communities.
  • Systematic, ecological and behavioural diversity of southern populations of the Cercopithecus mitis species group. Ntuthuzelo Makhasi began his studies of the morphological diversity of South African samango monkeys for his BSc Honours research in 2009. In 2013 he successfully completed his MSc dissertation [Morphological and genetic variation in samango monkeys (Cercopithecus albogularis) in southern Africa], and is currently working towards a PhD degree, expanding his focus to include several other areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Vusumzi Martins is exploring ecological and behavioural variation of samangos in different forest types in the Eastern Cape province, while Banele Dosi is investigating the genetic variation underlying this ecological and adaptive diversity. A primary research focus of the APIES team is the repertoire of acoustic communication in these forest dwelling animals, and its relationship to variation in acoustic niche characteristics.  The research of APIES is aided immeasurably by ongoing collaborations with José Braga and Patricia Balaresque of Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France; Cristina Giacoma, Marco Gamba and Massimiliano Delpero of il Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e Biologia dei Sistemi, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy; Luca Sineo of il Dipartimento delle Scienze e Tecnologie  Biologiche Chimiche e Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy; and Paul Grobler of the Department of Genetics, University of the Free State, South Africa.
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