Call to spot spider monkeys to help tackle habitat loss

The public are being called upon to help scientists tackle deforestation and habitat loss.

The goal of the Spotting Spider Monkeys project is to train an algorithm to spot and monitor spider monkey populations in the tropical forests of Central and South America without the need for human intervention.

The British Science Association (BSA), a charity that promotes the development of science, is urging members of the public to help scientists by looking for spider monkeys in the drone footage clips of Central American forests and tagging them.

The tags will train the machine-learning algorithm to track spider monkeys on its own, saving researchers hundreds of hours of time.

The BSA hopes the project, which is being led by Dr Claire Burke of the Astrophysics Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University, will raise awareness of the impact deforestation and poor sustainability has on the planet.

The goal is to tag 17,000 infrared videos of spider monkeys, which will help scientists understand more about the effects of deforestation.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Spider monkey populations can be found in the tropical forests of Central and South America (Ian Nicholson/PA)</figcaption>
Spider monkey populations can be found in the tropical forests of Central and South America (Ian Nicholson/PA)

Dr Burke, lead researcher for Spotting Spider Monkeys, says: “With the black spider monkey population estimated to have fallen by 30% in the last 45 years, primarily due to habitat loss, this is vital work.

“If we could halt this decline, and perhaps even reverse it in some places, this would mean we were not only protecting the future of the spider monkeys, but also of these vital forest habitats.

“We really want to see the public’s passion drive them to tag these spider monkeys during British Science Week – saving our team years of research time.”

In a previous science project highlighted by the BSA, more than 1.5 million pieces of plastics were spotted and tagged by the public, saving researchers thousands of hours of time.

British Science Week, which is organised by the BSA, begins on Friday March 6, 2020.

To take part in the spider monkeys project, visit

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