Persistence in a fragmented landscape :a study of the white faced capuchin (Cebus capucinus) in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Stempel, Andrew B.
Beth Kaplin, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
Between the heavily deforested landscape of Costa Rica's Pacific slope and the well-protected Reserve Complex (50,000 ha+) of the Monteverde cloud forest region lies a mosaic of fragmented forest patches of varying size and level of connectivity to the reserves. The white faced capuchin (Cebus capucinus), common throughout Costa Rica but previously studied only in lower elevations habitats, persists in this fragmented region where their relationship to human communities includes regular crop-raiding on local farms. I conducted ground surveys and monitored capuchin presence and movement patterns in several forest areas of the fragmented region. Through my own primate encounters and those that I recorded from citizen observers in the Monteverde and San Luis communities, I determined capuchin presence in the fragmented areas and identified several currently viable arboreal corridors. Several striking differences from the current literature were observed in aspects of capuchin natural history. Primary among these differences were aspects of travel behavior and group size. In 89 recorded encounters, only 7.9% of groups seen consisted of greater than 7 individuals, in contrast to descriptions in the literature of 12 to 18 individuals typically. Only 4.5% of these encounters included observations of capuchins on the ground, deviating from literature that describes at least some individuals terrestrially in nearly all observations. This study suggests that increased attention to preserving and recreating arboreal connectivity on a landscape scale will help them persist within fragmented ecosystems in which they play an important ecological role.

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