Skip to content

Targum spotlight: Rutgers University for Primate Conservation advocates for primate protection

Rutgers University for Primate Conservation hosts events, fundraisers and trips to promote the conservation of primates.  – Photo by Juan Rumimpunu / Unsplash

The Rutgers University for Primate Conservation is an on-campus organization that supports the preservation of primates through events, fundraising and educational trips.

Alyssa Latargia, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior and the president of Rutgers University Primate Conservation, said one of the organization's goals is to bring social awareness to primate conservation through education.

"By conserving wildlife, we can learn more about these amazing species that roam the Earth and preserve our beautiful natural world for generations," she said. "The more people we can get involved in wildlife conservation work, the better."

Latargia said the organization, created in 2015, hosts events such as its primate enrichment toy project, where the members built toys for primates in local zoos.

Last year, the members completed a palm-oil-free bake sale to inform the Rutgers community about the dangers of unsustainable palm oil harvesting to primates, and they donated their profits to The Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls, New York, she said.

The organization also hosted a succulent sale to raise donations for Project Chimp, a sanctuary providing care for former research chimpanzees, Latargia said.

She said another feature of Rutgers University Primate Conservation is its educational field trips. In the Fall 2022 semester, the club visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to analyze its primate and human evolution exhibits, including Lucy's skeleton.

"Lucy is part of the species Australopithecus afarensis, and the discovery of her skeleton led to a lot of new discoveries in the field of evolutionary anthropology," Latargia said. "It was awesome to see her skeleton in real life after learning so much about her in classes about early hominids."

This year, she said the club plans to visit Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey. Latargia said the Turtle Back Zoo visit will help organization members better understand current conservation methods practiced in local zoos. She said as they gather information about specific practices, they will present it in the meetings and find ways to evaluate them.

Emily Dalacio, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior and vice president of Rutgers University for Primate Conservation, said that while there are no native primate species in the U.S., there are local primates threatened by pet and medicine industries.

"There are many refugees, sanctuaries and zoos that house primates who have unfortunately been mistreated by these industries," she said. "We support (these primates) by fundraising for them and also donating habitat enrichment toys built by the club."

At Rutgers University for Primate Conservation meetings, members and non-members gather to learn about the basics of primatology and debate the best conservation practices to help support sanctuaries around the U.S., Dalacio said. They host presentation nights to discuss their experiences with primates, trivia nights and activities to destress.

"We want to spread the word about how important primate conservation is and educate the public about certain aspects of primate conservation they might not know about," Latargia said. "We have people in the club that know a lot about primates and a lot of people that don't know as much. We learn so much from just having these meetings and talking to one another, and I think it's very important to have a space to learn in that manner."

Phoebe Ryu, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior and club secretary, said students are welcome to join meetings anytime. They do not need to have previous experience in research or conservation efforts to participate in the organization.

"We welcome anyone with an interest in the club's mission or those looking to learn more about programs (and) research that Rutgers offers," Ryu said.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe