The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is found mainly in the Peruvian Andes. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is found mainly in the Peruvian Andes. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is found mainly in the Peruvian Andes. (Photo: Neotropical Primate Conservation)

#SaveTheMonkeys: Crowd raises funds online to rescue rare primate

The endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey just got some help thanks to a global effort.

Yellow-tailed woolly monkeys are some of the rarest monkeys in the world. Indeed, one of the few places on Earth to spot them is in Peru.

In one particular area – El Toro, Peru – the monkeys' habitat is constantly under threat from those who want to turn it into farmland. But what if someone could purchase the forest and set aside the land as a nature reserve for the monkeys?

That's exactly what a bunch of conservation-minded people from around the world just did. An organization called This Is My Earth (TIME) recently launched with one goal in mind: crowdsource funds to purchase lands to protect their ecosystems and turn them into nature reserves. People vote for the hotspot they want to help the most, and the ones with the most votes are bought and handed over to local environmental groups to turn into parks and sanctuaries. The yellow-tailed woolly monkeys' habitat was the group's first funded project.

"Rather than lapse into resignation about the state of the planet, we have all made a statement that we can do better," said Dr. Uri Shanas, TIME's co-founder and a professor of conservation biology at the University of Haifa in Israel. "Humans may have made our share of environmental problems, but we can also solve them!"

The collaborative effort involves the participation of scientists, environmentalists and leaders from around the world, including China, Kenya, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"Our goal is to significantly broaden international participation in protecting lands located in the most precious biodiversity hotspots on earth," said Shanas. "By providing a democratic platform for citizens of the world to act and influence decision making via the single most important conservation management tool, preserving land and biodiversity, our new organization can help lead global conservation into a new era."

In its effort to save the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, the organization is helping an animal that has been listed as one of the world's 25 most endangered primates. The group joins the British nonprofit Neotropical Primate Conservation, which is developing eco-tourism initiatives to build awareness of the Peruvian monkey population and its habitat.

The Israel-based TIME joins others from the Mediterranean country that are helping with wildlife protection. In recent months, we profiled Ofir Drori, who is helping arrest Africa's worst wildlife traffickers, as well as a veterinarian named Yaron Schmid who is photographing endangered animals to bring more awareness to their cause.

While the Peruvian land is being purchased, TIME is already looking toward its next project. "By spring, we hope to have some new spots for you to vote on," Shanas said. "It feels good to be engaged in something real we can do together."

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