The Plurinational Science and Technology Award is promoted by the Bolivian Ministry of Education. Every year, since 2014, it is awarded to public and private institutions engaged in scientific research.
In 2021, WCS applied for this award with the work "Research and Conservation of two endemic primates of Bolivia: Plecturocebus olallae and Plecturocebus modestus", and won first place in the category of Natural Resources, Environment and Biodiversity. This work summarizes 20 years of studies on both species and a sustained effort to inform and raise awareness among the urban and rural population in the municipalities of Reyes and Santa Rosa, in the Beni department, where these primates, are locally known as lucachis.
The history of research on these primates dates back to 1938, when the Olalla brothers obtained the first scientific records and collections of the lucachis endemic to Bolivia, which helped Lönnberg determine that they belonged to two primate species, different from other species and to each other. Until 2002, the year in which WCS recorded individuals of both species in the Reyes region, no other research had been carried out. Their rediscovery marked the beginning of a series of studies and activities by WCS aimed at the conservation of these species.
These studies -led by Jesús Martínez and Robert Wallace- led to a deeper understanding of their taxonomy, distribution, demography and ecological behavior. Both species have small populations in fragmented forests in western Beni, especially P. olallae, restricted to the Yacuma River, with only 2,855 individuals. The population of P. modestus has been estimated at 20,000 individuals. These primates are monogamous and live in families that demarcate their territories by vocalizations. They feed on fruits, leaves, flowers and insects. The loss of forests is the main threat to their conservation, related to uncontrolled fires during the annual burning of savanna related to livestock activities, together with new settlements and increased human activity in the region. Because of their threat status, P. modestus is categorized as Endangered by the IUCN, and P. olallae as Critically Endangered.
Photo: Jesús Martínez/WCS
The information generated has also been key to the creation of the municipal protected areas Pampas del Yacuma (616,453 ha), in the municipality of Santa Rosa, and Rhukanrhuka (859,451 ha), in the municipality of Reyes, defining the conservation of the two endemic lucachi species as one of their priorities. Scientific information has contributed to the development of strategic management instruments for these protected areas. Each protected area has a management plan and a biodiversity conservation strategy. These areas are also part of the Rurrenabaque: Madidi-Pampas Tourist Destination, with Biosphere sustainability certification: an opportunity to enhance their tourism values.
The activities linked to the endemic lucachi monkeys have transcended their conservation, as they are now ambassadors for the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of the region where they live, contributing to an integral vision of biodiversity conservation compatible with the local development of its inhabitants for the benefit of future generations.