In July of 2005, a student observed the change in dominance of two males in a group of red howler monkeys.
Red howler monkeys usually live in groups with one or two adult males and several females and their juveniles and infants. In general, the dominant male or alpha, is the one who reproduces, therefore the tension between males can produce fights and changes in male’s dominance over time.
Male’s dominance can be produced because an external male, usually a solitary male, or another male in the group challenge the alpha male. Some of these fights finish in body contact where the male who lose can be seriously injured. This was the case of the male in this story, we called him D.
Very little is known about those males that lose a dominance fight and are expulsed from their groups, injured. D lived in a small fragment where census survey was taken frequently, and he was usually seen during these surveys.
D was observed for four months after he was expulsed from his group, mainly in some areas of that group territory, but never in close proximity to the group. During the first days his left leg was injured, and he moves slowly and with difficulty. He has a cut in his face and leg. But he was still able to feed himself and move, which was good for his survival. After six months we couldn’t find him again and although his injuries were better, we couldn’t be sure if he survived, disperse to another fragment or died.
Other solitary males had been seen in the same fragment and other fragments we survey in the study area over the years (29 observations of solitary males in 15 years), mainly in good health and without scars, except by two adult males: one observed by a local worker, who found him crossing a pasture with a deep wound full of worms. And another adult male observed in a medium size fragment (114 ha) with slow movements and who looks sick or old at that moment.
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