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Primate Biology and Conservation

Module titlePrimate Biology and Conservation
Module codeBIO3426
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Kimberley Hockings (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The order Primates is one of the most species-rich groups of mammals. Primate species span at least four orders of magnitude in body size, consume a wide variety of diets, exhibit the most diverse set of locomotory adaptations of any animal order, live in many types of social system, inhabit a range of environments, and have slow life histories compared to many other mammals. Approximately 60% of non-human primate species are threatened with extinction because of unsustainable human activities, an estimate that has increased alarmingly over the last decade.

This module focuses on current scientific understanding of the importance of and main threats to primates and their habitats, and examines how their biology might impact their conservation status and vulnerability to extinction, to identify mechanisms that will enable effective conservation. Using a mixture of lectures, background reading material, discussion and role play sessions, and a field trip to a local primate sanctuary, you will develop and share your opinions on a range of contentious topics in primate conservation, from the trade in primates and their parts, to human-primate interactions and infectious disease. You will explore different strategies used to conserve primates in the wild, including ‘eco’-tourism, sanctuaries, law enforcement and protected areas, and their species- and context-specific effectiveness.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to inspire you to disentangle the complexities of conserving primates in an increasingly human-influenced world, through integrating biological and social approaches, and examining the wider socio-economic, political, and ecological, conditions under which conservation strategies need to work.

Research-led learning is central to this module, and you will develop your research, writing, presentation, and discussion skills. Lectures and material provided will draw on real-world case studies and you will engage with research staff and students at the University of Exeter and elsewhere who will give guest lectures on their latest research findings within the field of primate conservation.

In addition to module specific knowledge, the focus will be on key employability skills including:

  • critical synthesis of literature around controversial topics
  • oral and written communication skills
  • time management
  • collaboration and team work
  • audience awareness
  • persuasive argument

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe in detail the biology and conservation status of non-human primates
  • 2. Outline the major conservation threats to primates and their habitat
  • 3. Discuss the complexities inherent in real-life case studies and think creatively about research principles and applied management practices for primate conservation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 5. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 6. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems in biosciences
  • 7. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 8. Describe and evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 10. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 11. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research-like tasks with very limited guidance
  • 12. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary
  • 13. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements
  • 14. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Lectures will cover topics relating to primate conservation such as:

  • primate biology and life histories
  • primate cognition and behavioural flexibility in response to anthropogenic threats
  • primate conservation status, including monitoring methods
  • main threats to primates, including habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, infectious disease, climate change
  • human-primate interactions and conservation conflicts
  • primate conservation strategies and policy

You will be given topics to research and you will present your findings during group discussions. You will develop your ideas about a particular aspect of primate conservation and present your findings in a poster accompanied by flash-talk.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching 10Lectures focusing on primate biology including behaviour and cognition, status of primates, threats to primates and their habitat, conservation strategies
Scheduled learning and teaching 5Practical field session – Primate sanctuary, Looe
Scheduled learning and teaching 2Role play with group flash-talk and discussion
Scheduled learning and teaching 4Poster presentation and flash-talk
Scheduled learning and teaching 1Revision session focusing on example exam questions and model answers
Guided independent learning 128Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Discussions during lectures and field sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Role play and group flash-talk2 hoursAllWritten

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay examination601 hour1-11Written feedback sheet
Poster and flash-talk404 hours1-11Written feedback sheet


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examination1-11August assessment period
Poster and flash-talkPDF of poster and video of flash-talk1-11August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to re-submit an assessment as described in the table above. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Cowlishaw, G. and Dunbar, R.I.M. 2000. Primate Conservation Biology. University of Chicago Press.
  • Wich, S.A. and Marshall, A.J. 2016. An Introduction to Primate Conservation. Oxford University Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Primate biology, primate conservation, conservation policy, primate pet trade, primate bushmeat trade, deforestation, land conversion, infectious disease, human-primate interactions, conservation conflicts, conservation management

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2406 Biodiversity and Conservation or GEO2435 Evolution of Human Societies

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date