La Paz, Bolivia, July 28, 2022 -- The International Primatological Society has awarded Jesus Martinez with the Charles Southwick Conservation Education Commitment 2022 Award for his contribution to the preservation of the only endemic primates documented in Bolivia: the Olalla’s titi monkey or reddish lucachi (Plecturocebus olallae) and the Beni titi monkey or ashy lucachi (Plecturocebus modestus), both in danger of extinction. This award is dedicated to recognizing individuals living in primate habitat countries that have made a significant contribution to formal and informal conservation education in their countries. 

Since 2002, Martinez and other WCS researchers have undertaken studies aimed at the rediscovery and ecology of the Olalla’s titi monkey and the Beni titi monkey, in order to plan actions for their conservation. Due to these investigations, it is now known that the lucachis are monogamous; live in small families; measure up to 75 cm long (including their tails); demarcate their territories by means of very characteristic vocalizations; and feed mainly on fruits and supplementing their diet with leaves, flowers and insects. It was also established that they only inhabit forest islands in the vicinity of the Yacuma River in the municipalities of Reyes, Santa Rosa and San Borja (Beni).

Martinez, a Bolivian biologist with a Masters in Primate Conservation from the Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, has worked for WCS since 2004, leading primate field research efforts in the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape, concentrating on promoting the conservation of both endemic titi monkeys. Martinez created and now leads the Bolivian Primatology Network, which aims to increase research and conservation work on primates in Bolivia.

Said Rob Wallace, a senior conservation scientist for WCS’s Amazon-Andes-Orinoquia Program, “Jesus is an outstanding conservationist and well deserving of the Charles Southwick Conservation Education Commitment Award. He is a dedicated scientist who has embraced the need to engage with and develop longstanding, meaningful and results-driven relationships with a diversity of local people and organizations in order to achieve conservation successes for both endemic titi monkeys. His work will ensure progress for many generations to come to prevent the extinction of these species important to the ecological and cultural heritage of Bolivia.”

Fragmented and reduced habitats are contributing to the vulnerability of both species. With a population that does not exceed 20,000 specimens, the Beni titi monkey is considered Endangered. And the situation of the Olalla’s titi monkey is even more worrying. With a population of just 2,855 individuals, they are Critically Endangered. For this reason, the IUCN has cataloged them among the 25 most endangered primates on the planet.

Martinez’s work has been key to actions aimed at strengthening ecological values ​​in the local population and promoting attitude changes in favor of the natural environment. In this process, carrying out environmental education activities in schools was strategic, targeting students, who are in a receptive age to new knowledge and to incorporate it into their future lives. These educational efforts have ensured that local authorities and communities have a greater appreciation of the importance of preserving these primates, whose survival is closely linked to the conservation of the habitats that shelter them. A clear example of this has been the creation of the municipal protected areas Pampas del Yacuma (616,453 ha, in Santa Rosa) and Rhukanrhuka (859,451 ha, in Reyes) in which the lucachis are conservation priorities.