Mission: To collect information on the ecological and behavioural needs of buffy-headed capuchins. This will then be used to provide a strong bases for the development of conservation strategies to avoid this species' extinction.
Species: Buffy headed capuchin
Location: Atlantic forest, Brazil
Support started: 2001
Amount donated: £1,000 annually. No donations made for 2011, 2012 or 2013 due to project not requesting funds as writing up their current research.
Background: The yellow-breasted capuchin monkey (Sapajus xanthosternos) is endemic to the Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Although abundant in the past, this rare capuchin is now on the verge of extinction because of habitat destruction and intense hunting. A survey conducted between 2002-2005 looked at the remaining populations of yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys to establish the status of the species and precisely identify the threats to its survival. Most of the largest forests fragments within the original distribution of the species were visited. The presence of this species was reported 221 times from 491 interviews, and 19 interviewees indicated the presence of yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys only in the recent past meaning there is possible extinction of local capuchin populations. During the survey 28 yellow-breasted capuchins were found to be illegally kept as pets and sometimes in very poor conditions.
These monkeys are difficult to see or hear so camera traps have been used to confirm their presence. Bananas were used to attract the groups to platforms, and the animals were successfully photo trapped in all of the 19 areas where camera-traps were used. The remaining populations of yellow-breasted capuchins are fragmented and isolated due to hunting and habitat loss. The management of the species as a metapopulation will be possible (or recommended) in areas where capuchin groups can be translocated or reintroduced. Yellow-breasted capuchins are one of the most hunted primates for subsistence in the region and it is very much the preferred pet.
Despite the relevance of the information already obtained, there is a highlighted need for a comparative census in the western part of capuchins distribution, where populations seem to be scarcer and inhabit very different and harsher environments, such as the dry forests and open scrub. Capuchins living in that region have been observed using stones to crack palm nuts and there are no protected areas harbouring population of the yellow-breasted capuchins there.©
Achievements: A survey to determine population densities of yellow-breasted capuchins were carried out using transects in three forests: two federal reserves and a private reserve. A total of 734 km in the three areas was surveyed. The population density estimate for the species was 3.7 individuals/km2. It is estimated the total population of this monkey is about 3000 individuals. Based on these studies and of other research groups investigating other species, in June 2010 the Brazilian government created the Serra das Lontras National Park, with 11,400ha of protected forest. In addition, in 2007 the Una Biological Reserve was increased in size by about 7000 ha, to attain a total of 18.500 ha of protected forest.
Future objectives: To located and map isolated populations of the monkeys that could be translocated to larger forest fragment; locate and map large forest fragments with and without populations of yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys where monkey groups could be reintroduced using captive-bred monkeys or groups translocated from vulnerable, small populations elsewhere in their range; conduct density surveys in four small and two large forest fragments in this dry environment to compare with previous findings in the evergreen forests. The population estimates will then be applied to the entire landscape of dry forest to calculate the population size of yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys living in the dry forests and transitional areas with tropical forests; and initiate research on the ecology of the species in the dry forest where we have recorded groups using stones to crack nuts. Additional information will help us to understand how they survive in such apparently harsh environments.