Monkey Conservation Project

Take time off on your holiday in Sri Lanka to contribute towards conserving the habitat of Sri Lanka’s monkeys. The conservation programme in Polonnaruwa is one of the longest-running research efforts in the world. Be a part of this fascinating research activity. Follow the monkey troops and learn of their intriguing behaviour and ensure their long-term survival.
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Red Dot supports the wonderful work carried out by the Association for the Conservation of Private Diversity which functions under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Primate Biology Programme.  Their field research station is based in Polonnaruwa which is in the heart of the cultural triangle, close to the ancient ruins. Red Dot can arrange a stay within the Polonnaruwa field research camp or in a hotel nearby, depending on your preference.  A minimum two night’s stay is recommended.

Association for the Conservation of Primate Diversity & the Smithsonian Primate Biology Programme:

Having dedicated more than 40 years to intensive research, the Association for the Conservation of Primate Diversity has advanced scientific knowledge of the evolution of primates and of how best to protect their future. The monkeys of Polonnaruwa have been celebrated globally through documentaries. The Association also teaches and inspires people to appreciate wildlife, particularly primates and their habitats, and to protect them.

The guiding principal behind these conservation efforts is that “People will conserve only what they love, and will love only what they know and understand, and will understand only what they are taught.”

The project has worked with David Attenborough (BBC Natural World) and have recently completed a 13-programme series for Animal Planet entitled “Dark Days in Monkey City” that is being shown globally.  In addition to the documentaries the project conducts educational outreach programmes for the local communities and invites them to visit and participate as volunteers in their work.

Research activities
The association carries out field observations on primates in their natural forest home in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, at a site called the Polonnaruwa Nature Sanctuary. The main focus is on the three species of monkeys:

Toque Macaque – Endemic to Sri Lanka (active, socially sophisticated and entertaining). The macaques have many natural markings making it easy to distinguish individuals, and we can observe them at close quarter – within a few feet.

  • Gray or Hanuman Langur (regal, easy going leaf-eater, but sometimes infanticidal)
  • Purple-faced Leaf Monkey – Endemic to Sri Lanka (like Hanuman but highly arboreal in small social groups).
  • The fourth species at the research study site, the Grey Slender Loris, is active at night and has been studied the least. About 1,100 macaques (among 34 social groups) and about 800 or so langurs of each species have been identified and each of their individual life histories is being followed.

The research study is designed to increase the knowledge about the biology and the evolution of social behavior in primates, and by extension, in man. It involves studies of not only behaviour, ecology and sociobiology, but also of population genetics, paternity fingerprinting, parasitology, physiology and growth and development.

Study site in Polonnaruwa

The study site is within the Polonnaruwa Nature Sanctuary that also houses the ruins of the old capital which are one of Sri Lanka’s major tourist attractions.

Accommodation during your volunteer work

The field research station, also known locally as the `Monkey Camp,’ lies in a private patch of forest on the shores of a large lake and is fully staffed with research assistants, cooks and other staff. Facilities include an office, library, and two houses with comfortable accommodation for visitors and participants (some rooms have a/c and h/w). The cooks are able to prepare western and eastern meals. The restaurant at the field research station has gained a reputation for being a “vegetarian’s paradise”. There is telephone, electricity, internet, and vehicles for local transport.

There are tourist hotels with swimming pool and bar within walking distance of the field research station. The distance to the Polonnaruwa town is 3 kms where grocery shops, medical facilities including a large government hospital are located.
Photo Gallery

Visitor Learning Tours
People of all ages are welcome to visit with the field research station for the purpose of learning about local wildlife, especially about Sri Lanka’s monkeys. Come and witness first hand the soap-opera lives of famous monkey characters as shown in the Discovery Channel in documentaries like "Temple Troop", "Clever Monkeys" and "Dark Days In Monkeys City".

Visitors are taken on early morning observation treks with the monkeys under the expert guidance of our research staff. A minimum of two nights stay at the Field Research Centre is recommended. For many, their stay with the monkey families has been the highlight of their Sri Lankan tour. Two-week volunteer participation in the research is also available upon special request.

The Association for the Conservation of Primate Diversity is a non-profit organization. All payments that volunteers make to the Association go towards the cost of maintaining visitors and volunteers facilities and to help finance the project effort.

Affiliations & Publications
Dr Wolfgang Dittus is the Director of the Primate Biology Programme and is affiliated as an Honorary Senior Research Fellow with the Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS) in Sri Lanka. Dr Dittus is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution National Zoo in Washington, DC, USA. Scientific publications by him and his co-workers are listed under the following link: Click Here (Enter “Dittus”, in the Author Dialog)

More information is indicated at: Click Here (Look under Center for Species Conservation or Conservation Ecology Center)

Get in Touch

Hotline +94 117895810


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