Monkey Forest Tales: What happens on the study area in relation to deforestation?

One of the biggest news over the past month (August 2019) was the increase of fires in the Amazon forest. Although not a rare event for people living, researching and interested in this incredible ecosystem, the problem this time was the increase in the amount of fires product of an increase in deforestation for pastures (extensive cattle ranching) and agro-industry products.

Traditionally, Amazon forest, as well as most of the gallery forest common in the Orinoquia, have been deforested following the same pattern, people cut the forest they want to convert to agriculture and/ or cattle ranching, pile the wood, let it dry and then burned, it’s the called slash and burn, a practice used to open land for new land uses. It’s also common in Africa and Asia and has been the traditional way humans had clear land. However, now the dimensions and scale at which this slash and burn land clearing practice is done is higher and motivated by the market demands for commodities.

In Colombia it has been used since pre-colonial times, the scale and the reasons to do it is what has changed over time. It is a practice still used in the deforestation frontiers of the Amazon and it’s also used in the Orinoquia not only to clear land but to open natural savannas for cattle ranching or agriculture. Pastures burning increase nutrients in the soil and natural pastures in the Orinoquian savannas are adapted to a certain amount of fire to produce new buds and regrowth, however, the fire cycle and the replacement of native pastures to introduced ones had change that pattern.

In the study area where this project is based, deforestation hasn’t been too high in the last decade, the last big area (around 25 ha of gallery forest) was cut at the end of 2003 for a new palm oil plantation. Most of the deforestation occurring in this specific area is the reduction of forest areas around the streams (gallery forest), mostly to expand pastures or for small crops of watermelon, pineapple, papaya, and pumpkin. This deforestation mainly affects watercourse that are used for the same landowners that cut the forest, which during the dry season needs to increase their expenses to bring water to those pastures that before used the stream water they reduce by reducing the forest area. This is an illegal practice that is poorly reinforced. According to our laws, the forest around watercourses of any caudal should be of at least 50 meters each side, however, this depends on landowners’ practices.

Additional deforestation had occurred near to secondary or tertiary roads as well as near the town, mostly as a consequence of “improving” infrastructure, causing a reduction of living fences important in the area for wildlife movement between different land uses. Around the town, approximately 10 ha, has been deforested due to road constructions and new house developments. This same situation on a bigger scale occurs in the nearby towns and the bigger city in the area, Villavicencio, where most of the swamp and gallery forest around watercourses are deforested to make new constructions of houses and roads. Most of these constructions had increased the risk of hunting, road kills, and predation of local wildlife that still persist in and around towns and the city in the region. A disorganize development pattern is causing higher pressures on the native wildlife living in forest relicts in and around towns and cities in the region. Although a lot should be done by the local governments, people’s awareness and understanding of the effect that this reduction of forest cover around watercourses can cause in their daily life as well as on water quality is one of the future goals of this project.

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Forest affected by tertiary road improvements causing disruption of wildlife crossing in 2011 in the study area.

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Monkey Forest Tales: About people in the area: how this project has impacted people perceptions over time – Part 2

Figura 1 Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. Decision Point

This post is about the second family and how this project had changed their perceptions of monkeys and fauna in general. This story is about a family that I met when I first arrive at the main farm in which this project has been developed. They were the people in charge of the farm (names had changed to protect people in this story).

Pablo was good at handling cattle and horses, very considered with the people working with them, but he loves to take small parrots to sell and hunt from time to time and armadillo or something else, not because they didn’t get access to a protein source just because it’s part of the tradition in this area of Colombia. Marta his wife, was and still is an amazing cooker and a great person, but she also thought that forest animals were only for food and to get some profits. When I arrived, they have two girls, a teenager Diana and a baby girl Rosa, later a boy join the family. Diana started to visit the forest with me and learn about monkeys and other animals, but she never was too much into animals. Rosa grow up with me close to her, as I was living in the farm at that time. During those years I was collecting information about Colombian squirrel monkeys and spent my days following monkeys and my nights playing with Rosa.

In 2005, we started a small project with the landowners to plant fruit trees in the area next to the stream in front of the farmhouse. During that process and through some visits to the forest to see monkeys and birds Pablo start changing his behavior towards all animals. When Rosa was 3 years old, she also started to want to go with me anytime that I went to the forest. She was too small, but she loves animals, especially horses and started to ride at that time with her dad. Sometimes when I went to the forest for just a couple of hours, I take Rosa to the forest with me, I take notes about plants and insects and see monkeys while Rosa was with me.

Rosa went with her dad and me to plant trees and she grows up seeing the monkeys as some of her backyard neighbors who eat fruits and drops things from the trees from time to time when we were looking at them. They live on that farm for four more years in which we learn from each other’s and they became great support from this project. After they move to different farms over the years, Pablo introduces me to other farm owners and whenever was possible I visit those farms and talk about the importance of monkeys for the forest and farmers.

Rosa is now finishing her high school and one of her career options is related to the environment. Pablo is still managing a farm and on that farm, by his suggestion, the farm owner doesn’t allow hunting and try to preserve the forest and animals that inhabit those forest.

Although this project didn’t have a big component on education or has been focused on changing people’s behavior, it’s though the personal relationships that I and some students had built over the years that these families had changed their perceptions and behavior towards nature. Therefore, if you have a project near people sometimes just talking with them about life can lead to a change in people’s behavior towards nature and the effect our actions have on it.

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Monkey Forest Tales: About people in the area: how this project has impacted people perceptions over time – Part 1

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In this post and the following posts, I will share the stories of two families and how this project had changed their perceptions of monkeys and fauna in general. The first story is about a mother and her daughter (names had changed to protect people in this story).

When I first arrived in 2004, I visit several farms around the one I was looking for monkeys. In one of those farms, I met Maria and her daughter Sonia. Maria didn’t like monkeys at all, especially black-capped capuchins. They used to go inside of her kitchen and steal food, especially chicken eggs. The house was just a couple of meters from the forest fragment and the capuchins crossed almost every single day. The farm also had extractive practices, selective logging on a small scale (just for the farm use and from time to time some big trees for sell). Hunting was allowed.

Maria’s daughter, Sonia, studied in the town but visit her mom from time to time and liked animals, she was 14 years when I first met her. Sonia started to go to the forest with me during her holidays and started to make a lot of questions about the monkeys, how they live and what they eat. She seems to enjoy going to the forest to observe the monkeys as well as the stories I tell her about the monkeys. She also enjoys birds and takes care of any wild animal that seems to be in trouble.

Over the years we all became close friends and I saw how Sonia became a mom of two. Although Sonia wasn’t able to study biology or anything related to animals, her concern and love for animals continue. A few months ago, I visit her again in her new home and I was surprised by how she had taught that same care and concern about nature to her own kids.

Maria’s behavior towards monkeys also changed over the years, although she now lives in town instead of on a farm, she always has some news to tell me about monkeys close to the town and she even joins me when I did some walks near to the town searching for monkeys. Her change had also led her to talk to her neighbors and husband about protecting animals in general and how that is beneficial for humans. Hearing her and Sonia gives me and this project motivation to continue. It’s not common that you can see how the love you have taught about animals pass from one generation to the next and how you really change people thinking through your work.

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Monkey Forest Tales: Notes about retuning fauna after regeneration

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One of the advantages you get from a long-term project in the same study area for more than a decade is that you can start observing if some of the actions you help to implement have some kind of benefits for the fauna and flora of the area. This post is about those anecdotic but important observations that surprise you when you visit an area for a long time.

It’s not only those observations of large capuchin monkey groups I mentioned in past posts (Monkey Forest Tales: Why black-capped capuchins move in big groups (> 10 individuals) in very fragmented areas?). It is also about the changes that we have observed after the landowners decided to fence the forest and set aside an area around the stream in front of the farmhouse.

When I first visit SR farm in 2004, near to the stream in front of the house, there were only two big Ceibas and a few other sparse trees. Nothing was blocking your sight from the pastures at the other side of the stream. However, in 2005, by suggestions of some students and colleagues, the landowners fenced the area and we plant some fruit trees. We planted fruit trees of species that we know monkeys used as food trees in a nearby forest fragment. The area set aside is not more than 1000 m2. The area was left alone so natural regeneration could occur.

After 14 years of natural regeneration and some initial planting, you can’t see the pastures at the other side of the stream from the farmhouse. Birds, monkeys and other small mammals had started to use it. And this also had generated a change in the animals observed in the last three years, in the forest fragments nearby.

Common guan pair’s, solitary and small groups of coatis as well as squirrels had been observed in forest fragments than 14 years ago didn’t visit. They never were extinct from the area but now they are more common and easy to see in forest fragments where they weren’t seen before.

It’s possible that not only the regenerating areas but also the decision of the landowners of let vegetation grow in wire fences as well as planting some living fences and their change from allowing hunting in their farms to ban it has allowed these species to come back.

In forest fragments present in other farms, where we had made few surveys, and which had secondary forest from different ages (10 – 30 years of regeneration), we had observed different mammal species using them. It seems the first ones to use these natural regenerating areas are small rodents, crab-eating foxes, giant anteaters and small birds who used open areas widely. In regenerating areas of 10 years you can also see black-capped capuchins and squirrel monkeys from time to time and it seems that some new form groups of dusky titi monkeys also use these areas as part of their home ranges. Howler monkeys seem to use these areas only after 15 – 20 years when bigger trees are present.

A new threat is emerging in the last two years, threatening the biodiversity in the area. Some of the farm dogs started to roam inside of the forest fragments and an increase of feral dogs had been observed by students and local workers. We had an increase in the number of domestic dog’s attacks on monkeys and other fauna. This new threat is something we need to start evaluating so we can give farmers in the area more tools to preserve the biodiversity they still have in their land.

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Monkey Forest Tales: What we have learned about Brumback night monkeys over the past 15 years?

Aotus brumbacki (Colombian Llanos) Nest

This is the sixth and last post of a series in which the findings of this project are presented. In this post, the findings for the Brumback night monkeys are described. These monkeys are small size and the only nocturnal species in the study area. It is also the less studied species in this project.

We found them living in swamp, gallery and lowland forest and there are local people reports of individuals and groups in orchards too (Carretero-Pinzón & Defler 2008). They can use small forest fragments (< 5 ha) as home ranges for a few months while dispersing and probably while stablishing newly formed groups (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations).

They use living fences as part of their home ranges and for dispersion between forest fragment in highly fragmented landscapes (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2010). Solitary individuals have been observed eating and moving in living fences.

Brumback night monkey groups in the area, are usually of three individuals and up to 5 individuals (Carretero-Pinzón 2013). Densities of this species are higher in small fragments that in bigger fragments (Carretero-Pinzón 2013).

We had observed this species eating pioneer plants in the forest fragment edges, as well as arthropods (Vargas 2011). These monkeys use dead palms, palms of Moriche and Unamas and tall vines as dormitories in fragmented areas (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations). One study in the area identifies 10 vocalizations associated with activities made by a group of Brumback night monkeys (Vargas 2011).

This species is part of our new efforts as is one endemic Colombian primate species of which not much information is available.

References

Carretero-Pinzón, X. 2013. An eight-year life history of a primate community in fragments at Colombian Llanos. In: Primates in Fragments: Complexity and resilience, Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. Marsh, L.K. & C.A. Chapman (Eds). Springer Science+Business Media, New york.

Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2018. Primates and flooded forest in the Colombian Llanos. En: Barnett AA, Matsuda I, Nowak K (eds) Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2010. Uso de cercas vivas como corredores biológicos por primates en los Llanos Orientales. In: Primatología en Colombia: avances al principio del milenio. Pereira-Bengoa, V., Stevenson P.R., Bueno M.L. & F. Nassar-Montoya. Fundación Universitaria San Martín. Bogotá, Colombia.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., Defler, T.R. & S. Ferrari. 2008. Wild Black Capped capuchins (Cebus apella) feeding on a night monkey (Aotus brumbacki) in eastern Colombian Llanos. Neotropical Primates 15 (2): 62 – 63.

Vargas, M. 2011. Vocalizaciones de Aotus brumbackii (Hershkovitz, 1983) y su relación con las actividades en la vida silvestre, San Martín (Meta, Colombia). Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Bogotá, Colombia.

Aotus brumbackii- Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón

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Monkey Forest Tales: What we have learned about black-capped capuchins over the past 15 years?

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This is the fifth post of a series in which the findings of this project are presented. In this post, the findings for the black-capped capuchins are described. Black-capped capuchins are the second most common primate in the study area. These monkeys are medium size and very intelligent primates inhabiting the study area.

Where do you find and how many black-capped capuchins you find in a landscape depends both on how tall the forest is and how many fruit trees you can find in a forest fragment. Where to find them also depends on the type of cover surrounding that specific forest (crops and plantations or pastures). Additionally, in fragmented landscapes where no living fences or fewer forest fragments are present will have less black-caped capuchins (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2017).

 

Although group sizes of black-capped capuchins in fragmented landscapes are similar to groups in continuous areas. In the fragmented landscape, we had found bigger groups (> 20 individuals, usually more than 2 groups), which seems to be seasonal. Mostly had been observed in the study area in June, rainy season, although we still don’t know the reason (Carretero-Pinzón et al unpublished data).

They can live in fragments of gallery forest, lowland forest and swamp forest (forest patches composed mainly of Mauritia flexuosa with soils of a high-water table; Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018). Black-capped capuchins are more commonly found in the rural landscape than urban landscapes in the Colombian Llanos. This can be related with their intelligence and ability to enter houses and steal food. In rural landscapes this primate species is sometimes considered a pest. In the study area we know they can crop-ride maize, oil palm, orange, watermelon and enters to local gardens to steal fruits such as bananas, papayas and soursop (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations, local people reports).

Black-capped capuchins use living fences as part of their home ranges, suing them to get access to other forest fragments and to find fruit and arthropods. Most of the living fences they use are more than 10 m height, although they can use wire fences without any tree cover to disperse and move from one fragment to another (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2010).

Occasionally, stablished groups spend several days in small forest fragments (< 5 ha) using fruit trees and then return to the forest fragments they usually live in. This pattern seems to be seasonal and seems to be more common during the rainy season when some small forest fragment flood (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations).

Black-capped capuchins are opportunistic hunters of bird species in the study area, predating violaceous jay (Cyanocorax violaceus). They had also been observed in the area consuming a dead female of Brumback night monkeys (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2008). Domestic dogs, tayras (Eira barbara) and crested caracaras (Caracara cheriway) have been observed attacking young capuchins in wire and living fences in the study area (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations).

References

Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2018. Primates and flooded forest in the Colombian Llanos. En: Barnett AA, Matsuda I, Nowak K (eds) Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler, C.A. McAlpine & J.R. Rhodes. 2017. The influence of landscape relative to site and patch variables on primates distrubution in Colombian Llanos. Landscape Ecology 32: 883-896.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2010. Uso de cercas vivas como corredores biológicos por primates en los Llanos Orientales. In: Primatología en Colombia: avances al principio del milenio. Pereira-Bengoa, V., Stevenson P.R., Bueno M.L. & F. Nassar-Montoya. Fundación Universitaria San Martín. Bogotá, Colombia.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., Defler, T.R. & S. Ferrari. 2008. Wild Black Capped capuchins (Cebus apella) feeding on a night monkey (Aotus brumbacki) in eastern Colombian Llanos. Neotropical Primates 15 (2): 62 – 63.

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Monkey Forest Tales: What we have learned about red howler monkeys over the past 15 years?

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This is the fourth post of a series in which the findings of this project are presented. In this post, the findings for the red howler monkeys are described. Red howler monkeys are the biggest primate species inhabiting the study area. They are also the most common species present in the area.

Where do you find them depends on the number of forest patches the landscape has, this means that it is more possible you find groups of red howler monkeys in landscapes where there are a lot of forest patches of any size. How many red howler monkeys you find in a landscape depends on how tall the forest is and the form of the forest patch (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2017).

Red howler monkeys use living fences as part of their home ranges, suing them to get access to other forest fragments and to find fruit and leave sources. Most of the living fences used by red howler monkeys have trees of more than 10 m height (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2010).

Red howler monkeys can survive in small forest fragments (< 5 ha) using them as home range as well as stepping-stones during male’s dispersal (Carretero-Pinzón unpublished data). We have seen males dispersing using pastures, wire and living fences, as well as passing secondary and tertiary roads (Carretero-Pinzón unpublished data, local people reports). Sometimes they also use electricity poles and cords to move, which causes them electrocutions (Local people reports). Recorded dispersal distance in the area is up to 4 km (Local people reports).

They can live in fragments of gallery forest, lowland forest and swamp forest (forest patches composed mainly of Mauritia flexuosa with soils of a high-water table; Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018). Red howler monkeys can live in rural and urban landscapes in the Colombian Llanos.

Red howler groups spent more time moving in search of food in smaller fragments than groups living in bigger fragments (Escudero 2005). Red howler monkey tends to consume more fruits, young and mature leave in larger forest fragments compared with smaller fragments. In the study area, we had found that they consumed plant species that are different from the families they consumed in continuous areas (Escudero 2005). They have been observed using herbaceous plants in the pastures near to the forest fragment edges, up to 200 m from the edge, eating on the ground in open pastures (Carretero-Pinzón unpublished data).

Red howler monkeys live in groups from 1 to 9 individuals in the study area, usually a couple of males and a few females and their offspring, similar to groups in continuous areas (Carretero-Pinzón unpublished data). Solitary males had been observed in the study area in fragments of different sizes (Carretero-Pinzón unpublished data).

Red howler monkeys had been observed covered by human bot fly in the fragmented and continuous area. In the study area, this external parasite seems to be more common in red howler groups living near to palm oil plantations (Carretero-Pinzón unpublished data).

Red howler monkeys are good seed dispersers and in the study area, they have been found to be highly selective. Seeds dispersed by this species is also different depending on the season in which the study is made. They are good disperser of fig species (Ficus spp.) in fragmented areas (Gaitan-Naranjo 2009). A comparison of the two main areas of this project found that in the area around the Unamas Natural Reserve red howler disperse more species than in the Santa Rosa area, this is related to the plant diversity found in those areas (Gaitan-Gomez 2017).

 

References

Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2018. Primates and flooded forest in the Colombian Llanos. En: Barnett AA, Matsuda I, Nowak K (eds) Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler, C.A. McAlpine & J.R. Rhodes. 2017. The influence of landscape relative to site and patch variables on primates distrubition in Colombian Llanos. Landscape Ecology 32: 883-896.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2010. Uso de cercas vivas como corredores biológicos por primates en los Llanos Orientales. In: Primatología en Colombia: avances al principio del milenio. Pereira-Bengoa, V., Stevenson P.R., Bueno M.L. & F. Nassar-Montoya. Fundación Universitaria San Martín. Bogotá, Colombia.

Escudero, S.P. 2005. Patrón de actividad, recorridos diarios y dieta de Alouatta seniculus en fragmentos de bosque de galería San Martín Meta. Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Bogotá, Colombia.

Gaitán-Gómez, D. 2017. Comparación del tamaño y la capacidad de germinación de semillas dispersadas por Alouatta seniculus en paisajes con diferentes grados de fragmentación, durante la época de lluvias en San Martín, Meta. Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Bogotá, Colombia.

Gaitán-Naranjo 2009. Dispersión de semillas por parte de Alouatta seniculus en fragmentos de bosque (San Martín, Meta). Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Bogotá, Colombia.

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Monkey Forest Tales: What we have learned about Dusky titi monkeys over the past 15 years?

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This is the third post of a series in which the findings of this project are presented. In this post, the findings for the Dusky titi monkeys are described. Dusky titi monkeys are another of the smallest primate species inhabiting the study area.

Dusty titi monkeys are a charismatic and endemic species that can only be found in Meta department (state) of Colombia. They can be found in the piedmont of the Colombian Llanos. However, the eastern part of their distribution seems to not go further to the Upia river (Defler 2010). Its populations are declining due a reduction and fragmentation of their habitat (Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2016). Therefore, it is considered a vulnerable species that need to be protected to avoid extinction.

They can live in fragments of gallery forest, lowland forest and swamp forest (forest patches composed mainly of Mauritia flexuosa with soils of a high-water table; Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018). In continuous areas, they are commonly found near to the stream and river edges in higher densities, while in fragmented areas higher densities can be found in forest fragments edges and small fragments (Defler & Carretero-Pinzón 2019).

Where do you find them and how many groups of them you will find depending on the amount of forest there are in the landscape. How many fruit trees influence how many groups of these fluffy and quite small monkeys you can find in fragmented landscape (Carretero-Pinzon et al. 2017).

Living fences, fences made from a line of native trees used by local farmers to divide their pastures as well as small forest fragments (< 10 ha) in the middle of pastures are important sources of food, especially fruits and are used as part of home ranges (territories; Carretero-Pinzon et al 2010). Some of those small fragments (< 5 ha) seem to be used for dispersing individuals and as an initial home range for newly formed groups in fragmented landscapes (Carretero-Pinzon unpublished data). Therefore, these landscape structures help them to survive in highly fragmented landscapes such as agricultural and urban landscapes.

Dispersion distance in fragmented landscapes is up to 3 m through wire fences, living fences, and pastures (Carretero-Pinzon unpublished data). Mainly early morning hours and late afternoon hours are used for dispersion between forest fragments. Although is possible to encounter them dispersing on pastures and using living fences at noon in some areas (Carretero-Pinzon unpublished data).

We have limited information about their diet that is mainly composed of arthropods, fruits, flowers and leaves (Ospina 2006; Quintero 2017). They consume mainly fruits from the understory and canopy of the forest (Ospina 2006; Quintero 2017). Similar to the Colombian squirrel monkeys they use pioneer plants for fruits in the forest edges (Ospina 2006; Quintero 2017).

Dusty titi monkeys live in family groups with a male, a female, and their offspring. Babies born during December and January with babies been carried by the males mainly until their third month (Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2016).

References

Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2018. Primates and flooded forest in the Colombian Llanos. En: Barnett AA, Matsuda I, Nowak K (eds) Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2016. Callicebus ornatus, an endemic Colombian species: Demography, Behavior and Conservation. En: Ruíz-García M, Shostell J.M. (eds). Phylogeny, molecular population genetics, evolutionary biology and Conservation of the Neotropical Primates. Nova Science Publisher Inc., New York, USA. ID book: 5975

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2010. Uso de cercas vivas como corredores biológicos por primates en los Llanos Orientales. In: Primatología en Colombia: avances al principio del milenio. Pereira-Bengoa, V., Stevenson P.R., Bueno M.L. & F. Nassar-Montoya. Fundación Universitaria San Martín. Bogotá, Colombia.

Defler, T.R. 2010. Historia natural de los primates Colombianos. Conservacion internacional. Bogota: Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Facultad de Ciencias.

Defler TR., Carretero-Pinzon X. 2019. Edge habitat preferences in three titi monkey species in Colombia (Cheracebus lugens, Cheracebus torquatus lucifer y Plecturocebus ornatus). Neotropical Primates 24(2): 64-71.

Ospina M.J. 2006. Comparación de los Patrones Comportamentales de Callicebus cupreus ornatus Durante dos Épocas Estacionales en un Fragmento de Bosque de Galería, en San Martín, (Meta). Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Bogotá, Colombia.

Quintero, O.Y. 2017. Variaciones comportamentales y de dieta de dos grupos de plecturocebus ornatus (mammalia: primates) en paisajes con diferentes grados de fragmentación en San Martín, Meta, Colombia. Universidad del Cauca. Popayan, Colombia.

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Monkey Forest Tales: What we have learned about Colombian squirrel monkeys over the past 15 years?

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This is the second post of a series in which the findings of this project are presented. In this post, the findings for the Colombian squirrel monkeys are described. Colombian squirrel monkeys are one of the smallest primate species inhabiting the study area.

Most of the time when people see this species in continuous or fragmented areas, they have the impression that there are too many of them. The reality is that because these species live in bigger groups, it looks like there are many but it’s usually just one big group. This has led to the idea that there are common and not in danger of being extinct. However, their numbers are declining, and their habitat has been reduced and fragmented and this affects its survivorship. This is the reason why they are classified as near threatened (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2009, 2013).

Where do you find them and how many of them you will find depending on the amount of forest there are in the landscape. How many fruit trees and how high the forest canopy is, as well as the presence of living fences influence how many of these agile and sometimes noisy small monkeys you can find in fragmented landscapes (Carretero-Pinzon et al. 2017).

The fences made from a line of native trees used by local farmers to divide their pastures (living fences) as well as those trees find standing alone or in small groups in the middle of pastures are important sources of food, especially fruits. Also, living fences are used as part of home ranges (territories), using them to eat fruit, arthropods and to get access to flooded forest fragments in search of small frogs (Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018). They use living fences with variable height and also wire fences without any tree cover during their daily movements as well as when dispersing (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2010).

In fragmented landscapes areas where living fences and isolated trees are common usually support bigger groups (> 25 individuals; Carretero-Pinzon et al 2010). These landscape structures help them to survive in highly fragmented landscapes such as agricultural and urban landscapes. They can live in fragments of gallery forest, lowland forest and swamp forest (forest patches composed mainly of Mauritia flexuosa; Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018).

As I mentioned in another post, they live in big groups formed by several males, females and their offspring. But in fragmented areas group sizes are smaller than in continuous areas, with groups commonly having between 15 – 43 individuals (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2016). Most groups in continuous areas are of more than 50 individuals. Groups usually have several females (<6 in fragmented areas and > 8 in continuous areas), a couple of males (< 5 in fragmented areas and >6 in continuous areas, Carretero-Pinzon, unpublished data).

Also, in fragmented areas is common that you find subgroups of the same group eating and moving for just a few hours or up to two days apart, especially, in the months in which the fruit offer is reduced in the forest fragments. In continuous are on the contrary subdivision of groups is less common and n some areas is possible to see more than one group of squirrel monkeys eating and moving together (Carretero-Pinzon personal observations). Group territories (home ranges) in fragmented areas don’t overlap very often, while in continuous areas the overlapping can be of almost 50 % of their home ranges (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2016). In both cases there is not evidence of defense of territories and when two groups encounter there is not display of aggression associated with this defense (Carretero-Pinzon personal observations).

In continuous areas (big extensions of a forest), it is common to find solitary males and bachelor groups of only males that are also common in fragmented landscapes. It is also possible to find solitary males using small fragments (< 10 ha) as permanent home ranges for several years and making associations with groups of red howler monkeys. We are not sure if those males are old males just living their last years alone or if they are just dispersing males. However, we know of at least one solitary male who spends at least three years living in a small fragment (4 ha) for three years and then disappears from that fragment (Carretero-Pinzon unpublished data).

Colombian squirrel monkeys in the fragmented areas eat arthropods, fruits, and flowers, in more quantity than in continuous areas but always consuming more arthropods than fruits in both (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2016). The plant species they eat fruits vary in fragmented landscapes where more pioneer plants are used. These are plant species that grow faster and require more light to grow and are easily found in forest fragment edges (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2016).

Mixed troop formations with black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella) are less frequent in fragmented landscapes compared with continuous areas as I mentioned in a previous post.

References

Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2018. Primates and flooded forest in the Colombian Llanos. En: Barnett AA, Matsuda I, Nowak K (eds) Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler, C.A. McAlpine & J.R. Rhodes. 2017. The influence of landscape relative to site and patch variables on primates distribution in Colombian Llanos. Landscape Ecology 32: 883-896.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2016. How does the Colombian squirrel monkey cope with habitat fragmentation? Strategies to survive in small fragments. En: Ruíz-García M, Shostell J.M. (eds). Phylogeny, molecular population genetics, evolutionary biology and Conservation of the Neotropical Primates. Nova Science Publisher Inc., New Yoork, USA. ID book 5975

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2013. Conservation Status of Saimiri sciureus albigena, an endemic subspecies of squirrel monkeys. In: Especies de Primates Colombianos en Peligro de Extinción. Defler, T.R., Stevenson, P.R., Bueno M.L. & D.C. Guzman.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2010. Uso de cercas vivas como corredores biológicos por primates en los Llanos Orientales. In: Primatología en Colombia: avances al principio del milenio. Pereira-Bengoa, V., Stevenson P.R., Bueno M.L. & F. Nassar-Montoya. Fundación Universitaria San Martín. Bogotá, Colombia.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., M. Ruíz-García & T.R. Defler. 2009. The Taxonomy and Conservation Status of Saimiri sciureus albigena: a squirrel monkey endemic to Colombia. Primate Conservation 24: 1 – 6.

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Monkey Forest Tales: What have we learned about primate community and biodiversity over the past 15 years?

Today I start a series of six posts in which a summary of all the findings of this project is presented. In this first post, some of the findings related to the primate community and biodiversity of the study area, in general, are presented. The following five posts will present the specific findings related to each of the primate species studied in this project for the past 15 years.

As you may notice from the information on this website, the study area have a primate community composed of five species: red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella), Colombian squirrel monkeys (Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena), dusky titi monkey (Plecturocebus ornatus) and Brumback night monkey (Aotus brumbacki). Additionally, in the area is possible to see deer (Odocoileus virginianus), giant ant eaters (Myrmecophaga trydactila), river otters (Lontra longicaudis), armadillos (most commonly found Dasypus novemcinctus), squirrels (Sciureus granatensis), tamanduas (Tamandua tetradactyla), coatis (Nasua nasua), opossums (Didelphis marsupialis), hedgehogs (Coendu prehensil), tayras (Eira barbara) small felids and a wide variety of birds. Towards the east of the study area and inside of the bigger forest fragments tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), peccaries (Tayassu tajaccu), capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), at least three species of deer (Mazama gouazoubira, Mazama americana and Odocoileus virginianus), jaguar (Panthera onca) and cougars (Puma concolor) can also be found.

The most common primate species in the area are the red howler monkeys and the black-capped capuchins (Carretero-Pinzón et al. 2017). Although, in general, the primate community is composed of the five primate species mentioned above, all the big primate species (woolly monkeys (Lagothrix spp.) and spider monkeys (Ateles spp.)) has been extirpated from the area for more than 100 years according to local people and are found now only towards the Macarena and Tinigua National Parks, southeast of the study area.

For all primate species, the presence of the species in a forest fragment depends on the amount of forest surrounding a specific fragment (Carretero-Pinzón et al. 2017). Small fragments (less than 10 ha) are used mostly as a stop when primates species are dispersing between fragments in the study area. Except for red howler monkeys, who can live in these small fragments permanently.

The presence of living fences as well as isolated trees increases primate species movements between forest fragments. Living fences are used by all primate species not only for dispersion but also as part of their home ranges with the use of the living fences in a seasonal pattern to get access to additional fruit trees, arthropods and to get access to flooded forest fragments (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2010; Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018). Living fences are also used by tamandua, armadillos, squirrels, hedgehogs, coatis, snakes and a wide number of birds.

When forced all primate species in the study area can cross large extensions of pastures, with a recorded distance of up to 4 km for red howler monkeys and 3 km for dusky titi monkeys (Personal and local people observations). Giant anteaters are common on pastures and crossing secondary and tertiary roads in the study area in early morning hours or late in the afternoons. Occasional observations of white-lipped peccary herds in the eastern part of the study area had been reported by local people. The last report of a herd near to San Martin town by a local farmer was nearly ten years ago.

Small fragments (< 10 ha) are used as a temporal home of coati groups, who use fragments of different sizes and move through pastures and living fences. Other mammals, such as giant anteaters, deer, armadillos, hedgehog, opossum use these small fragments as a permanent home range. Farms in which we had observed more mammals are the ones with more living fences, isolated trees and small fragments (< 10 ha). All five primate species can live in fragments of gallery forest, lowland forest and swamp forest (forest patches composed mainly of Mauritia flexuosa; Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018).

Over the past 15 years, in some of the fragments that were fenced to reduce the cattle use of forest fragments, we have observed the regeneration of the underground vegetation. Also, in those fenced forest fragments we observed the return of coatis, squirrels, and guans, these animals were not observed during the first years of this project. An emergent problem for the biodiversity of the area is the increment of feral and domestic dogs in the area that hunts in groups inside the forest fragments.

References

Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2018. Primates and flooded forest in the Colombian Llanos. En: Barnett AA, Matsuda I, Nowak K (eds) Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler, C.A. McAlpine & J.R. Rhodes. 2017. The influence of landscape relative to site and patch variables on primates distribution in Colombian Llanos. Landscape Ecology 32: 883-896.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2010. Uso de cercas vivas como corredores biológicos por primates en los Llanos Orientales. In: Primatología en Colombia: avances al principio del milenio. Pereira-Bengoa, V., Stevenson P.R., Bueno M.L. & F. Nassar-Montoya. Fundación Universitaria San Martín. Bogotá, Colombia.

© Copyright Disclaimer. All picture used in this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message in the website. Thank you.