The African Primate Initiative for Ecology and Speciation (APIES) is a research unit based at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, dedicated to studying the biology, conservation, diversity and evolution of the non-human primates of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar.


South Africa is home to six indigenous primate species: chacma baboons (Papio ursinus), samango monkeys (Cercopithecus albogularis), vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops), thick-tailed bushbabies (Otolemur crassicaudatus), southern lesser bushbabies (Galago moholi) and Mozambique dwarf bushbabies (Galagoides granti), the latter recently discovered by APIES team members within the borders of South Africa.


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Across the Mozambique Channel, the island continent of Madagascar supports the single most diverse clade* of non-human primates alive today: the lemurs, comprising seven or eight extant or recently extinct families that differ extensively in diet, activity pattern, body size, locomotor adaptation, and social organisation.

Primate biology (primatology) is a particularly interesting branch of zoology because of its potential to teach us more about ourselves and our history through a better understanding our four-handed relatives. From an ecological standpoint, primates are also particularly vulnerable to extinction because most of them rely on trees for their survival, and forests and woodlands are constantly being cut down for firewood, to clear areas for agriculture, or for commercial and residential developments.

In South Africa, many non-human primates are persecuted because their intelligence and adaptability have enabled them to survive in transformed habitats – like housing developments and farm land – where other indigenous animals have gone extinct. Their problem-solving abilities make them difficult to keep out of the exotic gardens, pine forests, fruit orchards and maize fields that have replaced their more traditional feeding areas, and their flexible foraging behaviour often provokes violent reprisals from land owners and forestry corporations (even those endorsed by the Forestry Stewardship Council).

The APIES team is committed to the study of this fascinating and uniquely interesting group of animals, in an effort to counteract the ignorance and prejudice surrounding them, and to provide crucial information for their continued survival and co-existence with that most destructive primate species, us. In this venture we are joined by an extensive network of colleagues and collaborators, both within South Africa and worldwide, who share our fascination with, and concern for, Africa’s primate fauna. We are an integral part of PEGG – the Primate Ecology and Genetics Group – which has served since 2002 as South Africa’s official forum for primatologists working in the region. PEGG embraces both professional researchers and amateur primatologists in the truest sense of the word: i.e. people who work with primates out of love. A large portion of the most significant work regarding the care and conservation of South Africa’s primates is carried out privately by individuals who refuse to remain passive while the country’s wildlife is hunted,  mutilated, or exterminated to serve the insatiable needs (or, in some cases, perverse cruelty) of their fellow humans. APIES and PEGG salute you.

PEGG is an affiliate (with full voting rights) of the International Primatological Society.

*A clade is a group of organisms that are descended from a common ancestor.


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