Felipe Cortes (Colombia, 32 years old) started his career as a primatologist in 2009 and in 2012, he co-founded the Proyecto Washu to protect the brown-headed spider monkey, which is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. Thanks to his organization, a new private reserve was created in Ecuador, where local families put their hands together to create the ‘Cacao Production Project’ to protect the spider monkey’s habitat.
However, habitat loss is not the sole problem for the spider monkey: illegal wildlife trade poses another threat to the species’ existence. Felipe and his team are actively engaged to tackle this. Moreover, since 2015, Proyecto Washu has rehabilitated nearly 30 individuals and will hopefully be able to reintroduce them into the wild.
Felipe will use the Future For Nature Award to conserve a newly discovered population of the brown-headed spider monkey in the North-West of the Province of Manabí, Ecuador. This species was thought to be extinct in this part of the country, but was re-discovered in 2016. For the development of effective conservation strategies, further research is necessary on certain aspects, such as the prevalence of the species, the characteristics of the forest fragments inhabited and the feasibility of implementing sustainable agricultural practices and the possible connectivity of the forest fragments. The first step will be to register population and ecology data in the inhabited sites, and to collect fecal samples for genetic variability studies. This will provide a better understanding of the species’ coping mechanism when faced with the fragmentation of the habitat and will be used to implement a proper management project for populations in other forest fragments.