Releasing the Mandrills
Since the 2008 pilot release of six Tchimpounga mandrills, the JGI team has been working hard to integrate eight more individuals to form another group to release into the wild. Madrills are rare primates found in only four African countries. Reintroducing any wild animal into the forest is a serious undertaking, but the process is somewhat easier with mandrills than with chimpanzees. The current plan is to reintroduce the next mandrill group in September.
Over the last three years, we have been raising funds for this project. The costs include fielding a six-person team in the forest for 18 months, not to mention the costs of the radio collars needed to follow each mandrill ($3,000 each). All in all, it is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.
While not all the funds are available at the moment, the team is pushing ahead and work is underway to secure the release site and to set up a pilot system that will allow the field assistants to follow the mandirlls to ensure they adjust to life in the wild. The mandrills will receive support as needed during the transition from captivity to forest life.
Miles Woodruff will supervise the mandrill release. In addition, he is working on a study supervised by Dr. Jo Setchell of Durham University in the United Kingdom to assess how the mandrills adapt to their new environment. Little is known about wild mandrills and we hope our efforts will provide more information for the scientific and conservation communities.
If the September release goes well, we will continue to release other mandrills as they arrive at Tchimpounga. We have already received three more mandrills in recent months, two of whom are currently under quarantine. The new mandrills could be released later if this current reintroduction is successful.
The selected release site is Conkouati-Douli National Park in the Republic of Congo. It is just over three hours from Tchimpounga by car and is a natural mandrill habitat. In fact, it is the only protected area with full national park status within the mandrill range, which is why it was chosen for the release.