The Harris World Ecology Center (HWEC), through a unique set of partnerships, promotes research and training in basic ecology and biodiversity conservation across the globe, and increases public awareness and interest in issues relating to global natural resource conservation. The center is housed within the Department of Biology at the University of Missouri St. Louis, and works closely with The Missouri Botanical Garden and the Saint Louis Zoo.


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Biology PhD student Patricia Mendoza just returned from her field season in the Southern Peruvian Amazon. She is working to characterize the circulation of Herpes viruses in monkeys that are rescued from wildlife trafficking and undergo rehabilitation and reintroduction. In captivity, primates are exposed to human diseases that may be foreign to their natural habitats. It is important that the reintroduction of the rescued monkeys prevents the spread of harmful diseases to wild primate populations. The human Herpes virus can be lethal for Neotropical primates, as well as some other Herpes viruses that are contagious between primate species. She is surveying captive and wild spider monkeys to assess the similarity between the viruses found in monkeys that have never been captive versus those that arrive to rescue centers. This year, together with a diverse team of veterinarians, biologists, students, and monkey rescuers, she examined about 50 monkeys at two different rescue centers in Madre de Dios, Peru. The team performed full health checks, medical treatments, and samples collection for disease screening. She also tracked and sampled monkeys that have been released and are successfully living free. One of the monkeys shown here is chewing a rope coated with banana juice. Collecting monkey saliva from the rope allows samples to be collected without trapping, caging, and anesthetizing the monkey, all of which can compromise the monkey’s reintroduction process.

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