Monkey Forest Tales: Thinking about families: how similar are monkey’s and human’s families


We are at the time of the year when we think about families more than probably other times during the year. So I thought will be nice to make a comparison of how similar monkeys and human families are?
Depending on the human society, families came in different sizes and forms, in the same way monkeys families varies depending on the species. So we have big families with several males and females and many young members of different ages, we also have families were the males are not the father of the younger ones, we also have families with lots of aunts or lots of uncles and families with just a mother, a father and their youngsters.
Same as in human families conflict appears motivated by the same reasons…. Resources…either mates or food. In humans food resources had a cover that we can put all under money.
Same as in humans, monkeys strongest relationship with the out world started with their mothers and the closest members of their groups. Through them they learn about how their world works? where they can find food? who are their friends? and who are their enemies? where to move and sleep?
Also, same as humans, in monkey’s families, mothers sometimes have the support of sisters and grandmothers to educate their babies. Sometimes they help carrying the babies other times they help watching over them while playing. And they always give alerts when some danger is close to them or give their lives to protect them.
Monkey’s families also have individuals who are greedy, jealous or just difficult, same as human families. Although some human families expel those members some others just accept them and deal with them in a different way. In a similar way monkey’s families also have some of these complicated members. They can also be expelled or just relegated to the edge of the family group depending on how much support they have from other members of the group or how much the alpha males tolerated them.
But all these families, human and monkeys, are the center of their societies. They are the center of their social lives and all are based on the same biological principle to pass their genetic information to the next generation.
I wish you all a happy holiday season and let’s hope we all can accept the diversity of our human families during this season.

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Monkey Forest Tales: Importance of edge plants for food for all monkeys species

Unamas - SR Enero 2012 212

Black-capped capuchins eating arthropods from branches of a Schefflera morotonini tree at a forest fragment edge.

Today’s post will explore the importance of edge plants as food for monkey species in the study area. One of the main effects of fragmentation is the creation of forest edges, a series of conditions that differs from the center of the forest in terms of light, humidity, plant species, temperatures, therefore affecting the use of those areas for monkeys species and in general for all animals in an area.

Some species can be more or less tolerant of those edge conditions and use it in different ways and intensities. In the case of the monkey’s species living in the forest fragments of the study area. The use of these areas for monkey’s daily activities varies with the season and it depends strongly on the plant species producing fruits in those areas.

For example, when species of plants from the Melastomataceae family (nispero (Bellucia grossularoides), Miconia spp.) and other species such as Tapirira guianensis, Protium sp., Cecropia spp, produce fruits, the use of forest edges increase for all the monkey’s species. In the case of Colombian squirrel monkeys the use of forest edges reached up to 26 % of their time in some months and for the endemic species of dusky titi monkeys, the preference for forest edges has also been associated with the use of plant species typical from this areas.

Another factor that can influence the use of forest edges by the monkey’s species in the study area is the proposed increase of arthropods abundance that forest edges can have. Arthropods are used by many monkeys as food in the area.

Probably, the most important factor is that the plant species common on forest edges which are consumed by monkeys are also the same species that appear in the earlier stages of natural regeneration in the study area, locally and at a more regional level. These are especially important if connectivity projects want to be implemented.

At the moment, in the region, most of the projects in which reforestation is proposed are based on non-native species and where native species are used, no information about species useful for native fauna is used as a baseline for those projects. Information about the species used by the native fauna on forest edge condition is useful as those plants usually are adapted to more light, higher temperatures and lower humidity typical or forest edges as well as more open areas. Additionally, these plant species can also be used for silvopastoral and agroecosystems where pastures plots include tree species of fast-growing capability as the ones present on forest edges. The use of edge plant species on reforestation projects as well as in silvopastoral systems can increase the value of those areas for biodiversity as they will provide more resources to the fauna passing through and using those areas.

Forest edges plants are not only important for the monkeys but to other fauna in the region, who also use it as nesting sites, food source as well as predation grounds in the case of small hawks, owls and eagles, that use forest edges as perch sites to hunt. Due to the high density of lianas and vines on many forest edges in the region, those are also sites used by giant anteaters to rest, hiding places for foxes as well as deers, especially when young animals need to be hide while their mothers feed in the open pastures and savannas. Less conspicuous species as crab-eater racons and armadillos also used those areas to hide and search for food.

Edge plants as the ones mentioned above are also the first to appear at natural regenerating areas, which increase their diversity and benefit to native fauna when it is left to progress in abandoned pasture and agricultural plots. Although forest edges had an effect on the native fauna and evidently have less biodiversity than areas inside of large forests. Their importance and use as tools in natural regeneration and reforestation programs have been poorly acknowledged and can be of great importance in the study region, where a dynamic of deforestation and natural regeneration is still present in some areas, depending on social and politic conditions.

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Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena

A Colombian squirrel male searching for arthropods at a forest fragment edge.

Monkey Forest Tales: Crop-raiding by primate species and some possible solutions

Unamas-San Camilo-Sept 2013 227

A maize crop next to a forest fragment in the study area.

One of the main problems of wildlife living close to human housing or settlements is the conflict generated but this closeness. One of the most complicated problems is crop-raiding or the use of crops by wild monkeys causing some loss for the people who depend on them. This is the topic of our post today.

In the study area and in general, in the region, crop-raiding is more commonly done by black-capped capuchins which sometimes is joined by squirrel monkeys. However, depending on the crop black-capped capuchins can be more destructive. That is one of the reasons why they are generally seen as a pest. Some of the crops in which they cause damage in the study area are citrus crops (mandarin and orange), maize (this is the reason for the local name in Spanish “maiceros”), banana, manioc, mango, avocado, and palm oil.

Although the economic cost of the damage caused by monkeys in the crops of this area has not been calculated, the people’s perception is that it is high. Therefore, they usually take measures to control the monkey’s damage. Some of these measures are as strong as killing some individuals or complete groups and others are less strong such as noises to repel them, or the use of dogs in the periphery of the crops.

One of the main reasons for monkeys to use crops as food sources is because the food inside of the forest fragments is scarce. And this is increased if the crop is planted close to the forest edge, giving them more accessibility to the crops with less risk, especially from predators.

This problem is common in all countries with monkeys’ populations living in close proximity with humans in rural and urban areas. Although in some of these places there are a series of strategies to deter monkeys to get close to the crop and produce damage, not all these measures work well. Some of the measures used to deter monkeys to crop-raiding are the use of dogs, a variety of devices to produce loud noises to scare the monkeys, the use of bees in the periphery of small orchards, and killing of problematic individuals. However, all these measures are used when the problem of crop-raiding is already happening and none of these measures prevent crop-raiding.

Some strategies that can reduce the impacts of crop-raiding, especially when the groups are not so used to feed on crops and didn’t depend on them for survival are:

1) reduce the selective logging inside of forest fragments close to crop plots

2) crop plots distance from forest fragments edges of more than 300 m

3) maintain the forest fragments quality by reducing natural product extraction from those forests

Although all these strategies tend to reduce crop-raiding from monkeys’ species, some of their skills can make crop-raiding reduction a challenge and a rotation of the deter measures has been proposed are successful in some places. More detailed information on the actual economic loss for people is still needing it in the study area although it had been done for primates in other countries and for other species of monkeys.

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Monkey Forest Tales: Possible explanations about why primate’s movement is not static in this highly fragmented landscape

San Martin (zonas Proyecto Zocay)

Google Earth’s image of the landscape in which the study area is located.

Today’s post is based on observations made over the past 15 years on primate species and other species movements in the landscape. One of the first thing that comes to my mind from all what I had seen in the study area is how variable and non-static seems to be primate and other species movements in the landscape of the study area. Even inside the big fragments in the landscape.

For example, in the larger fragment in the study area, even in the same months of different years, it wasn’t always possible to find primates in areas where they were observed in other years. Although this can be partially explained by the variability in the production of fruit trees from one year to the next. It also can be a product of other factors influencing the forest fragment like hunting, selective logging, and predation by domestic animals (dogs especially).

As mentioned in another post, the study area is a highly fragmented landscape composed of forest fragments (gallery and lowland rain forest) of different sizes immersed in a matrix of pastures, natural savannas, perennial crops, and palm oil plantations. In this system, some forest fragments seem to be too small to maintain primate’s groups but also, they seem to be used only as stepping stones to travel longer distances by other mammals and birds (toucans, parrots, tayras, giant ant-eaters, peccaries, jaguar and other carnivorous).

Over the years some primate movements seem to follow a clear pattern influenced by some resource availability such as fruits. For example, we had observed how Colombian squirrel monkeys use different fragments on certain months in search of certain fruits, while other months they use smaller fragments and living fences for frogs, insects, and fruits.

However, some other primate movements like the sporadic short visits to small fragments made by black-capped capuchins don’t seem to be related by any specific food resource. It is also not every year that a particular group of black-capped capuchin moves towards that small fragment. So why is that? For this particular group of black-capped capuchin other factors such as predation by domestic dogs can be a factor, but we need more data.

Additionally, the presence of regenerating areas, abandon watermelon crops and in some cases, palm oil plantations seem to be the reason for the persistence of some species that are more used to open areas such as deer, giant ant-eaters, tayras, and short-eared dogs.

The role of regenerating areas on reducing biodiversity loss had been discussed in the scientific literature. Its function as a new available area for territories as well as connecting habitat and a new source of resources is also important for many mammals and birds dispersing between large areas in highly-transformed landscapes.


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