About Dr. Wolfgang Dittus

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Dr. Wolfgang Dittus has created 31 blog entries.

Macaque seeks refuge in U. S. embassy

January 2013. Conflicting press reports about macaque breaching  embassy security
A macaque had found its way into the U. S. embassy compound in Colombo on 20 December, 2012, and caught the attention of the leading newspaper in the American capital, the Washington Post, which ran three different articles on the event.  Sri Lankan newspapers, The Sunday Times and The Island, too, picked up the story.  All papers agree that a macaque monkey was found inside the embassy compound without triggering any security alarms.  Embassy staffers secured their offices from the intruder and alerted their own marine guards as well as the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).  According to the Post, the U. S. marines chased the monkey into the adjoining compound – the British High Commission, but the Sri Lankan papers credited the DWC with restraining the panicked marines, capturing the tranquilized monkey and setting it free in the wild.
While newspaper reports appear to be serving different political needs, I herewith offer my own point of view.  Despite the fact that toque macaques are an endemic species, the Sri Lankan government had recently declared the species as a pest and, at the cost of millions of rupees, had distributed guns to the public to shoot macaques (a fact). Toque macaques are being persecuted in a most shoddy manner in this Buddhist country!  I suggest that this intrusive monkey most likely was an escaped or evicted pet from a Colombo residence where it had learned about its intended genocidal fate and sought asylum in the U. S. embassy.  Having been denied refuge by the Americans, it tried its luck with the Brits.
Wolfgang Dittus, PhD

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Macaque seeks refuge in U. S. embassy

Nature Education for Teachers

28 August 2012. ACPD staff instruct teachers on nature and conservation
Staff of the Smithsonian Primate Research Station conducted a wildlife conservation and nature education program for 25 school teachers from the Polonnaruwa education zone. Provincial Director for science education,  Mr.SM Saluwadane, Zonal Director for science education,and Master in charge of the nature center at the Royal college Polonnaruwa participated for the program.  This session represented an expansion of ACPD staff teaching of students, to include a new phase involving teacher training in the Polonnaruwa District.

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Nature Education for Teachers

VIDEO: rescue of rejected pet monkey

4 May 2012. Saving a destitute baby monkey can indirectly help conserve primates
Sunil Gunathilake, Research Co-ordinator on our team, rescues an infant toque macaque that had been raised as a pet and then abandoned on the streets of Polonnaruwa. Local town people alerted us and handed it over to Sunil.  The orphan was taken to our hospital and care facility at our research station. The BBC Planet Earth Live film crew assisted and recorded the event.
Read the full story feature article on BBC Nature and see a video of the rescue mission
Saving an orphaned or injured monkey does little to contribute that individual’s genes to future generations of its species; but it can help people to know monkeys better, maybe even to love them, and to galvinize them to conservation action.  And the other truth illustrated again here is that taking monkeys from the wild as pets is cruel to monkeys. Monkeys are highly intelligent and social primates which do best with their own kind.

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on VIDEO: rescue of rejected pet monkey

The BBC is here: “Gremlin” a rising star!

See video: cheeky monkey filming cameraman

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on The BBC is here: “Gremlin” a rising star!


The Sunday Times newspaper of Sri Lanka (26 December 2010) published a solicited commentary by Dr. Wolfgang Dittus of how best to prevent macaque monkeys harassing tourists at the Dambulla temple.

He suggested an educational program whereby vendors and visitors are prevented from carrying food to the site.

For details see  http://www.sundaytimes.lk/101226/News/nws_09.html

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Media

Science Conference

8 Jan 11. At the IFS Annual Review 2010, held in Kandy, Dr. Dittus presented recent research results from the Primate Biology Program.

The talk focused on the genetic, demographic and behavioral relationships involved in the avoidance of inbreeding in primates. The data spanned some 35 years of field observation and involved the genetic typing of about 1500 toque macaques.  Using 1113 genetically profiled pedigrees we noted that only about 1% of this wild population of macaques was truly inbred (at Coefficient of Inbreeding, F > 0.125). Most inbreeding was prevented by the dispersal of males from their natal group at puberty.  In addition, however, where close kin had an opportunity to inbreed, matings were prevented between close maternal relatives (parent-offspring, siblings, aunts, nieces) but not among maternal cousins, or, albeit rare, paternal relations. Although macaques recognize one another as individuals, the avoidance in inbreeding involves as yet little understood mechanism by which monkeys distinguish between close and distant relatives. The results have broad relevance among mammals including man.

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Science Conference

Primates and Economic Development

8 Mar 2011. Government economists seek scientific guidance in reducing human-monkey conflict, following inappropriate procedures.
The Sri Lanka Department of Economic Development, Community Development and Livelihood Improvement Project, under the Gemidiriya Foundation and funded by the World Bank, has put a stop to recent translocations of monkeys. They have invited scientific input following irregularities in the translocation of macaques from the wet-zone hills of Badulla, Sri Lanka, into the lowland dry-zone Maduru Oya National Park. The translocation was intended to remove crop-raiding macaques from villages near Badulla. However, the intervention did not follow IUCN guidelines, resulted in monkey deaths as well as the release monkeys of one subspecies into the habitat of another – a step that undermines genetic biodiversity. At a meeting with representatives of the World Bank, Department of Wildlife Conservation, the universities, and the Department of Economic Development, Dr. Dittus had  reviewed the rationale for different methods to ameliorate human-monkey conflict and presented a plan that would reduce such conflict in the short and long terms without involving translocation or other methods inimical to monkeys and humans alike.

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Primates and Economic Development

Training Program

23 Feb 2011. At Polonnaruwa, Dr. Rudran trained 4 students from the Open University in methods of ecological study

Dr. Rudran, Emeritus Zoologist of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, trained 4 students from the Open University in ecological methods at our study site at Polonnaruwa with help of ACPD research staff. He paid special  emphasis on the highly arboreal Purple-Faced Langur. It was a 2-day introductory session in the forest environment. A special presentation was also given to a large audience students ath the Royal Central College, Polonnaruwa.

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Training Program

Knuckles Education and Conservation

14 Jan11. New initiatives for education and conservation in the Knuckles mountain range

Dr. and Viji Dittus spoke with officials of the Ministry of Education, including the Minister of Education, Bandula Gunewardena, and Chief Minister of the Central Province, Sarath Ekanayake, at the Dumbanagala estate in the Knuckles region (www.dumbanagalachalet.com)  It was agreed to draft a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Education to establish a Center for Environmental Education and Conservation at the estate. Steps were also discussed to expand the estate’s nursery for tree species native to the Knuckles

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Knuckles Education and Conservation

History of Conservation

7 to 8 April 2011. At the inaugural conference of the International Association for Asian Heritage, Dr. Wolfgang Dittus and Sunil Gunathilake, presented a paper concerning the history of nature conservation in Sri Lanka based on ancient stone inscriptions and other records.
Sri Lanka’s Ancient Culture of Respect for its Biological Heritage
Dr. Dittus outlined the history of the conservation ethic with its roots in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. The philosophical ethic was first enacted as secular law (edicts) by the Indian king Ashoka of the Mauryan empire in about 250-230 BCE. It was embraced in Sri Lanka shortly thereafter and was the basis for the establishment of world’s first nature sanctuaries (e.g., at Mihintale) by Sri Lankan kings more than a thousand years ago. Stone inscriptions at various archeological sites in Sri Lanka attest to this history.

Stone inscriptions are well known by the Sri Lankan archaeological community, but emphasis had been placed on those of political importance. Our purpose was to seek out (in the field as well as in museums and in the literature) and highlight the existence and significance of ancient messages of conservation and nature appreciation in Sri Lanka.

For example, the image above depicts a pillar inscription from king Nissankamalla, 1187-92, at the Rankoth Vehera, Polonnaruwa. The ancient Singhalese script has been translated as “Security is granted to all animals in Ranatisa, Minihoru, Ganthale, Padan and many other great tanks (lake-reservoirs) in three kingdoms: Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti.” (Epigraphica Zeylonica, Vol. 2, #23)

By |April 8th, 2015|News Archives, Uncategorized|Comments Off on History of Conservation