Aoife Healy

Aoife Healy



Thesis title: Conservation of Africa’s most ubiquitous primates: management, mitigation, and mapping

Start year: 2012


Research topic

The core of my research will be the comprehensive meta-analysis of the relatively abundant data available for the Chlorocebus genus. This will involve the review, analysis, and contextualisation of these data. This desk-based study will cover a variety of topics including crop-raiding, sanctuary/rescue centre arrivals data, trophy-hunting, the history of vervet taxonomy and nomenclature, and ultimately the distribution, past and present, of these highly successful primates.

Through the use of GIS I will develop improved distribution maps for the six species of vervet. Occurrence data will be sourced through a combination of museum specimen indices, an exhaustive literature search, and communication with active researchers in the field. Suitable habitat will be mapped, incorporating elevation, layers of vegetation data, water sources, and other such ecological variables. This will be overlain with land use data, areas of human development, infrastructure and urbanisation, thereby highlighting areas of potential conflict with humans. Changes in habitat suitability over time will be incorporated, as well as areas of reported extirpations.

I will investigate arrivals data from sanctuaries and rescue centres throughout the range of each species, highlighting trends over time at individual centres and across sanctuaries. These data will also be incorporated into the GIS – delineating areas of recorded conflict and facilitating the prediction of other areas of such anthropogenic risk.

The ultimate product of this mapping project will be an ‘Interactive Encounters Map’. This will be a user-friendly online map on my website ( that will invite researchers and interested laypeople to input data. A simple click on the grid square where vervets have been encountered will allow the person to give the most general information. Once a grid has been selected a further questionnaire will allow more detailed information to be gathered where possible (such as approximation of troop size, activity, changes in frequency of encounters over time in the case of long-term research sites). These data can then be analysed and input into a constantly updating distribution map.


Chlorocebus, Vervet monkeys, Species Distribution Modelling, Meta-analysis, Primate sanctuaries, Interactive map

General research interests

Conservation, Taxonomy, Primates, Least Concern species conservation, Geographic Information Sciences, Internet databases

Work in progress

  • A review of vervet crop-raiding behaviour: What (if any) factors influence vervet crop choice?
  • Three years of arrivals at the Vervet Monkey Foundation, Limpopo, South Africa, March 2009 to March 2012
  • Vervets in primate trophy hunting
  • The Handbook of Mammals of the World Vol. 3. Primates, Cercopithecus entries, Edited by Russell A. Mittermeier, Don E. Wilson. Published by Lynx Edicions

Academic and professional training

  • BScAN Neuroscience, University College Cork, Ireland, 2008
  • MSc Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University, 2010

Other experience and professional activities

I come from a sanctuary background. I volunteered as a primate handler and rehabilitator at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in the Limpopo Province of South Africa over a three year period from 2006 to 2009. Here I was responsible for general animal husbandry, health monitoring, integration, rehabilitation, and some volunteer coordination and training. Furthering this experience, I spent a month at the Limbe Wildlife Centre, Limbe, Cameroon, in 2009, where they provide sanctuary for some tantalus monkeys as well as a variety of guenons and mangabeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, and several bird and reptile species.

These experiences inspired my entry into the Primate Conservation MSc programme at Oxford Brookes University, hoping to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to contribute to conservation through research.

In 2010 I was a research-assistant in the field in the Samara Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, a long-term research site of the Barrett-Henzi Lab research group of the Psychology department of Lethbridge University, Canada.

I am currently a trustee and treasurer of a Berkshire-based conservation education charity – MASC: Monkeys Acting in Schools for Conservation who received the PSGB Conservation Working Party Grant, 2012 ( We teach about conservation issues and environmental responsibility through the fun and interactive medium of theatre.

I designed and maintain an educational website about vervet monkeys, their behaviour, ecology, taxonomy, and conservation ( This site will be the site from which I will launch the ‘Interactive Encounter Map’.