The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Evaluating the utility of GPS collars for studies of ranging by large-bodied, arboreal, forest-dwelling primates


1Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 2Department of Biology, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia

Saturday 9:30-9:45, 200ABC Add to calendar

Studies of animal movement have benefitted in recent years from the development of GPS collars that can be deployed on wild individuals. Previously, concerns about size, weight, and GPS accuracy have limited the use of these technologies with arboreal primates, but the development of smaller, more efficient components means that lighter collars with longer lifespans can now be made to perhaps warrant their further use. Here, we report preliminary data on our use of GPS collars with two species of large-bodied, arboreal primates living in a closed-canopy rainforest in Amazonian Ecuador.

We fitted one woolly and three spider monkeys with ~145 gram collars (Telemetry Solutions), each equipped with a high-sensitivity GPS antenna, a VHF transmitter, and hardware to support bi-directional UHF data transmission, allowing users to upload customized GPS schedules and download recorded locations remotely. All four collars collected positional data successfully over periods of up to 11 months, although two failed within ~25% of their projected lifespans, and the best-performing collar reached only ~80% of its estimated life. Combined, the collars recorded fixes on 3096/4939 attempts (79%), with a mean “time-to-fix” of 57±20 sec. Kernel range sizes estimated from the set of GPS fixes for each individual were comparable to those based on locations recorded during focal follows over the same time periods. Overall, the collars provided valuable and accurate data, but their high cost (~$3200/unit) and disappointing early failures suggest that technological improvements are needed before these become a reliable tool for long-term use with arboreal, forest-dwelling primates.

This research was supported in part by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, and New York University.

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