Shields on Electric Posts Prevent Primate Deaths: A Case Study at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

In: Folia Primatologica
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When monkeys, such as the toque macaques (Macaca sinica) of Sri Lanka, seek food on the ground near human habitation, they may use electrical posts to escape aggression from conspecifics, dogs, or humans. Shields mounted on electrical posts prevented monkeys from reaching the electrical wires, thereby averting their electrocution: the frequency of electrocutions (n = 0) was significantly less (p < 0.001) in the 12 years after installation of the shields than in the 12 years before (n = 18). Electric shocks were either fatal (n = 14) or caused permanent injury (n = 4) (collectively referred to as electrocutions hereafter). The shields may find broader applications in other primate species and environments wherever monkeys are attracted by human food near electrical posts. Primates and other arboreal mammals also accessed live wires from trees; at known electrocution hotspots, short spans of exposed wires were insulated by encapsulating them in PVC water pipes. It was impossible, however, to prevent electrocutions from all electric supply infrastructures that put monkeys at risk. A wider use of insulated electric conductors in planning power distribution in habitats frequented by wild animals would be desirable in preventing electric shocks to wildlife.

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