Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 105 – Northern Muriqui


Northern muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus) family play by Peter Schoen

Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he’s been given. But up to now he hasn’t been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life’s become extinct, the climate’s ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.
Anton Chekhov

Northern muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus) by Bart van DorpThe muriqui, the largest of all New World primates, has recently been divided into two separate species. Both species are considered at risk of extinction. The northern muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus) is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered and the southern muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides) as Endangered.

And, all because the Atlantic forests of Brazil have been, and continue to be, relentlessly and indiscriminately hacked down to make room for crops such as Devastated rainforest in São Paulocoffee, sugarcane, palm (hearts) and tobacco. Mining for rock, like bauxite and granite for instance, has reeked havoc, too. And, as if that is not enough, vast swathes of land have been cleared and given over to grazing cattle. Needless to say, all the human requirements  that go with this rampant destruction have greedily devoured enormous slices of the precious and essential forests as well.

Slash-and-burn agriculture was, in fact, banned in Brazil over forty years ago, but the effects of this horrendous vandalism are still in evidence. Charred plant material is seeping from the soil into the rivers and thus into the ocean, potentially harming marine life.

But loss of habitat, although major, is not the only threat to the muriquis.

Northern muriqui by Peter SchoenThere is also the ubiquitous and questionable propensity for hunting. Muriquis have been heavily hunted for food and sport since the 16th century, when the Europeans first settled in São Paulo State. Something which continues to some extent today. The docile muriqui are active during the day and gather in large groups, and they are large of body, making them easy to spot in the trees. Each individual is big enough to provide the average family with more than one good meal. So, you can see their appeal to the less scrupulous. But with their current status, killing even one animal could be devastating to the smaller populations. Where once they were plentiful, there are now less than one thousand left in the wild, and some of those inhabit extremely isolated and fragmented forest areas. Their chances of long-term survival, at best, are not favourable.

Hunting of muriquis, whether for food or sport, is illegal, but still persists. To add to the crisis, many locals have also captured infant muriquis and kept them as pets.

Northern muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus) by Bart van Dorp Northern muriquis have long limbs and long, fully prehensile tails. The combination allows for optimum agility when moving through the trees. Males and females are almost identical in appearance with coats of brownish-grey and marked faces. Babies are born with black faces which then become mottled with age, developing typical pink blotches. Males and females are also roughly identical in size. Adult males weigh in at an average twenty-seven pounds and can extend to almost five feet from the head to the end of the tail.

Biologically, the most significant difference between the southern and northern muriqui is the presence of a small opposable thumb in the latter. This thumb is vestigial, possibly due to the development of its prehensile tail which may have gradually rendered the thumb superfluous to requirements.

Northern muriqui Both arboreal and diurnal, muriquis live in mixed troops of up to eighty individuals. Unusually for primates, they are not territorial and little aggression is ever displayed between members of the troop. Indeed, they are rather affectionate toward each other. Although they don’t seem to indulge in a lot of social grooming, a great deal of hugging does take place.

The also travel in line, one after the other, when moving through the forest. All very organised and orderly. A bit like following in the footsteps of someone else through a minefield. Those behind will always be in less danger. In this case from falls, the branches have already been tested by those in front, and from predators; alarm calls will soon be raised by those ahead who see them first.

This species is promiscuous, and mating is at a high from September to March, ensuring births occur in May to September during the dry season. Twins are rare, and most mothers give birth to only one infant. The infant will be born altricial and its care will only ever fall to its mother. Fathers do not tend to get involved, possibly due to paternity issues.

Northern muriqui - National GeographicInfants will only be weaned between the ages of eighteen and thirty months, and it will be between six and eleven years before they are mature enough to reproduce. Until weaning is complete, mother and child enjoy a close relationship, which then ends abruptly with the mother chasing her offspring away. Again, unusually for primates, it is the males which remain within the natal birth troop, with females leaving to join other troops.

It is not known how long muriquis live in the wild, but this long attachment to the mother, such late maturity and an average inter-birth interval of three years, can surely only hamper any rapid increase in the populations.

Northern muriqui stampsTo its great credit, the muriqui has become a symbol of the Atlantic Forest and its vastly rich biodiversity. It now appears on postage stamps, t-shirts and posters. Its peaceful and tolerant reputation has also earned it a place on the short list of mascots for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Natural Habitat
Humid coastal forests.
Where
Brazil’s Atlantic Forest.
What they eat
Young leaves, fruit and flowers.  When needs must, they will also eat birds’ eggs and some insects. 
Threats
Habitat destruction (the species now survives in extremely reduced and isolated populations). Locals hunt the muriqui for food, and they are sometimes hunted for sport. Natural predators include such as raptors and jaguars, but these are not seen as a huge threat as there is little else to attract them to the fragmented forests the muriqui inhabits.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Northern muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. It is also listed on Appendix I of CITES.
Scientists have applied a species prioritization scheme, the ‘National Action Plan for the conservation of Central Atlantic Forest Mammals’, to include the northern muriqui. Plans include habitat conservation and restoration, and establishment of green corridors. More of this can be found at ICMBio.
The green corridors will be created to link the few remaining fragments of forest. There are thought to be less than one thousand individuals left in these isolated parts. This species has shockingly suffered a decline in numbers of over eighty per cent over the last three generations.

Captive breeding programmes are in place.

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 94 – The Golden Lion Tamarin


Family portrait

 “In simple terms, the rainforests, which encircle the world, are our very life-support system – and we are on the verge of switching it off.”
Charles, Prince of Wales

Golden lion tamarins take their name from the magnificent ‘mane’ of golden hair around their necks – bearing a remarkable resemblance to the lions of Africa.  There are four species of lion tamarins – all of which are endangered, and all of which are endemic to Brazil.

Golden lion tamarin foragingEach species is blighted with the same major threats to its survival; loss of homes due to illegal logging, haphazard cattle ranching and human settlement.  Shockingly, the lion tamarins have now been left with only eight per cent of their original habitat.  Put another way, a staggering ninety-two per cent of their native Atlantic Brazilian forest has been burned or felled. This has jeopardised their freedom to roam for food, shelter and genetically diverse mates, rendering them one of the most endangered species on the planet.

Colonisation is not new to the Atlantic forest. Europeans first settled here in the 1500s. Historically, destruction began with coffee and sugarcane plantations.  During the 18th and 19th centuries demand was high for both commodities, heights matched only by the devastation caused by these activities. Despite this, today’s damage far surpasses anything achieved previously.

Current deforestation has created a specific danger for young golden lions.  These highly sociable little animals are far more exposed in their ‘play areas’ than before, making them vulnerable to predators.  Over forty per cent of Golden lion tamarin feedingjuvenile tamarins do not live past one year, even in normal circumstances, and this can only add to the difficulties of re-populating the troops.  The average lifespan of any golden lion tamarin surviving the age of one, in the wild, is fifteen years.

There are several conservation programs designed to combat the decline of the species in the wild.  Animals have been reintroduced from various worldwide captive breeding programs, which incidentally move individuals among the various zoos to prevent inbreeding. Survival rates have been notable, but their habitat is now so sparse, the problem with finding suitable homes and feeding grounds has not abated.

Fortunately, tourism has also begun to play its part, using the golden lions as a an attraction to be seen rather than harmed.  This can only be  a step in the right direction.

Also known as golden marmosets, the golden lion tamarins are easily recognized New World monkeys that sport a vivid orangey-red coat, with a long mane surrounding a hairless face of dark, rich purple.  It has been said that the colour of the coat may have come from direct exposure to sunlight coupled with carotenids in the diet.

Golden lion tamarin climbing a tree Golden lion tamarins are callitrichids, which have the defining characteristic of claw-like fingernails on all digits except the hallux (big toe).  These adaptations aid climbing, clinging to tree trunks in vertical fashion, quadrupedal movement through the branches and feeding.  Both male and female are similar in size reaching a height of about ten inches and weighing an average of one and a half pounds.

Golden lions are arboreal, sleeping in tree hollows at night hoping for some protection from predators.  Unfortunately, nocturnal predators, such as snakes and wild cats, often get the better of them.  When one monkey sees a predator, an alarm call is emitted to warn the rest of the troop.  Sadly, this is often too late.

A golden lion tamarin dad , front and back, rare twin babies, Brandywine Zoo, Wilmington, Delaware.These tamarins, like the others,  are omnivorous and travel through the branches (at up to 24 miles per hour, no less) to forage during the day.  They live in troops of anything up to nine individuals and often these delightful primates share food with each other. Normally these troops would be made up of a male, a female and some younger members of the family.

Lion tamarins are monogamous and mating usually takes place at the end of the rains (March to June), after which there is a gestation period of four months.  The species is unusual in that twins are normally born.  Most primates will give birth to a single infant.  Three and four babies have also been known to be birthed, but the chances of survival of all are quite remote.  The weakest will usually go first.  All group members, especially the father, will help with the care of the babies.  Infants are totally dependent on their mothers for the first four weeks.  At five weeks they will become a tad more independent and start to explore their surrounding, but still keeping close to mother.  Seventeen weeks will see them socialising with others in the troop, and at the age of fourteen months they will be considered young adults.

Natural Habitat
Coastal primary tropical forests.
Where
The diminishing Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil.
What they eat
Soft fruits, insects, flowers, nectar, eggs, invertebrates and small vertebrates.
Threats
Habitat loss and fragmentation due to aggressive logging, reckless agriculture and extensive human settlement.  Loss of suitable habitat has made reintroduction to the wild difficult because of the lack of sufficient clustered trees.   Though more than four hundred animals have been reintroduced into Brazil since 1984.   Capture for the illegal pet trade seriously depleted populations in the past, however,  this practice has lessened since laws were passed making the keeping of exotic pets illegal. But, it has not ceased.  Natural predators include birds of prey, snakes and wild cats.
Status: Endangered
The golden lion tamarin  (Leontopithecus rosalia)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It is also included on the  Brazilian Official List of Species Threatened with Extinction  (Lista Oficial de Espécies Brasileiras Ameaçadas de Extinção)  and on the regional threatened species list of the state of Rio de Janeiro.  The golden lion tamarin is protected under CITES Appendix I.
Dedicated conservation efforts have brought the numbers of golden lion tamarins from less than two hundred in the wild in the early 1970s, to over fifteen hundred living in the forests today.
Approximately four hundred and fifty are known to be living in one hundred and fifty zoos around the world.
Various conservation measures and programmes are in place, including  the National Zoo 


Related Articles

Golden Lion Tamarins and Rio de Janeiro
Using tropical rural areas

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 93 – The Jaguar


Jaguar sleeping in a tree

“Only when the last tree is cut, only when the last river is polluted, only when the last fish is caught, will they realize that you can’t eat money”
Native American proverb

With destruction levels of South America’s rainforests set to hit an all time high, these wild and beautiful big cats are being forced to move closer to human settlements.  This is not their choice, they simply have nowhere else to go.  Their habitat is being lost at an Young jaguar in the undergrowthalarming rate, and with it most of their wild prey species.  Many of the ungulates eaten by the jaguar are also hunted by humans.  Over-hunted, in fact.  Farmers, who will shoot jaguars on sight, view them as pests, and as a threat to both themselves and their livestock. This, of course, is not without foundation; but when you deprive an animal of its own natural prey, there is a great possibility it will look elsewhere in order sate its appetite.  The human population is growing as fast as the forests are disappearing, making it difficult for the jaguar to avoid contact with man, therefore increasing the potential for slaughter.  As a result the jaguar has become extremely vulnerable;  and he is not the one carrying a gun.

Another threat to the jaguar is hunting for pelts.  Although there was a huge decline in the 1970s, due to CITES involvement and protest campaigns, the wearing of fur has once again become popular.  The age-old demand for paws, teeth and other body parts also continues unabated.

Jaguar melanistic - black colour morphThe jaguar is the largest cat of the Americas, and the only living member of the genus Panthera found in the New World.  After the tiger and the lion, the jaguar is also the third largest cat on the planet. Noted for its power and agility, this iconic animal can weigh anything between one and three hundred pounds, stand three feet at the shoulder and reach as much as six feet in length.

These wild and graceful creatures have large, broad heads housing exceptionally powerful, short jaws.  One bite is enough to kill its prey.  Cats can tear their food and crush it, but are unable to chew.  Food is swallowed whole and, when in the stomach, the digestive juices break it down.

Pantanal Jaguar - Panthera onca palustrisThe base coat of the jaguar varies from yellow to reddish-brown with a white underside.  The spots on the head, neck and legs are usually solid, whereas on the back they appear as rosettes with spots in the middle.  The pattern of each coat is different and allows for identification of individuals.  It also provides perfect camouflage in the undergrowth.  When comparing leopard and jaguar, the leopard does not have spots in the centre of the rosettes.  This is an easy way to tell the difference at a glance.

jaguar melanistic Melanistic variants commonly occur in jaguars due to a dominant gene mutation.  They were once often referred to as “black panthers”.  This is, of course, now politically incorrect and they are instead known colloquially as “black jaguars”.  They are not, however, strictly black.  All the distinct markings of the jaguar are there underneath, but are hidden by the excess black pigment melanin.  It is quite possible to see these markings with the naked eye. Melanistic cubs can be born to non-melanistic parents and vice versa.

Jaguar in tree ready to pounceThis enigmatic and elusive cat spends its time either resting in the trees or hunting down its prey.  It hunts on both land and in water, and is a skilled swimmer.  It is capable of moving through the water with astonishing speed and stealth, often pouncing on its prey unannounced.  The prey is stalked in silence on huge padded paws, and after one agile leap, rapidly disposed of with a single powerful bite to the neck, suffocating the creature almost instantly.  In fact, the name Jaguar is said to come from the Native American word “yaguar” which interprets as “he who kills with one leap”.  A solitary creatures, the jaguar will defend its territory fiercely if other males attempt to encroach. This is when those huge canines come into action.

Like the tiger, lion and leopard (all genus Panthera) this large felid has the ability to roar, due to the unusual square shape of the vocal chords and the thick pad of elastic tissue towards the front.  Cats of the genus Panthera are the only cats which actually can roar.

Jaguar and melanistic cubs born in captivityJaguars only come together to mate.  Normally, they are solitary. There is no specific breeding season for the species.  It is the mother that takes care of the cubs – the father moves on.  As with tigers, there is always the risk of the father killing and eating the cubs. With perhaps this in mind, the mother soon sees him off after the birth if he lingers.  Following a gestation period of up to one hundred and ten days, typically, one to three cubs will be born, each weighing one and a half to two pounds.  The cubs will be born blind and remain so for the first two weeks of their lives.  They will be weaned at three months but will stay in the den, relying upon their mother for food, until they are about six months old. At this age, they will be ready to accompany their mother on small hunts.  They will stay with her until they reach maturity and can establish a territory of their own.  During this time the cubs will have perfected the art of finding food and shelter, and defending themselves. Females are mature at about three years of age and males four years of age.

Natural Habitat
Jaguars have a vast array of habitats including rainforest, deciduous forest, seasonally flooded swamp, grassland and mountain scrub.  They are almost always found living near water.  Where habitat is concerned, there are certain criteria essential to maintaining healthy populations:  dense cover, plentiful prey and a good supply of water.
Where
Remote regions of South and Central America, largely in the moist  Amazon Basin.
What they eat
Jaguars are obligate carnivores with a preference for large ungulates.  But, they will eat almost anything, including sloth, reptiles, amphibians, fish and monkeys.  In all,  jaguars are said to prey on over eighty-five species.   
Threats
Extensive and aggressive deforestation, persecution, human conflict, hunting for pelts, and hunting for paws and teeth for mythological reasons. “Those who excelled in hunting and warfare often adorned themselves with jaguar pelts, teeth, or claws and were regarded as possessing feline souls” (Saunders 1998).  Although hunting for pelts has declined dramatically over the last thirty years, demand is rising again in the markets, and claws are still seen as having the same mythical properties.
Status: Near Threatened
The jaguar (Panthera onca) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Near Threatened (likely to become endangered in the near future).  It is also listed on  CITES Appendix I.  The jaguar is fully protected at national level across most of its range, with hunting either prohibited or restricted.
Various groups are involved in  Jaguar Conservation.  Recovery programs are in place,  and there  is an active  Jaguar Species Survival Plan.  Yet the species is still declining!  

Related Articles
A LOOK AT CITES’ PROCEDURES AND EFFECTIVITY I
Brazil says Amazon deforestation rose 28% in a year
Amazon deforestation increased by one-third in past year
Red Yaguareté – Population Monitoring Program of Jaguars In Argentina
Seeking alternative livestock management…


Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 91 – The Maned Wolf


Maned wolf by Tambako the Jaguar

Maned wolf by Tambako the Jaguar

“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival”
Wendell Berry

Called a wolf and looking remarkably like a long-legged fox only adds to the mystique of this unique canid.  Invariably described as a ‘fox on stilts’, the maned wolf (genus Chrysocyon – the only species in this genus) is not closely related to either fox or wolf. Its closest extant relative is the bush dog (genus Speothos).  It is also very distantly related to a few others with bizarre names, such as the crab-eating fox and the short-eared dog.

Maned wolf walking with two pupsBut being one of a kind has not protected this species from the onslaught of encroaching agriculture and road building.  A great many maned wolves are killed on the roads every year. A problem which has been addressed with introduced speed limits and local awareness, but as usual, not everyone takes note and fatalities on the roads are still high.

The maned wolf has been greatly misjudged in the past.  Under the false label of chicken, cattle and sheep killer, it was once hunted mercilessly by farmers.  It is now known these shy, retiring creatures will not approach human settlements for any reason, and will run away in fear if they see humans approaching elsewhere.  Consequently, with the exception of a few very remote areas, the reputation of the maned wolf has altered in its favour.

Maned wolf pupLet’s not forget, of course, the now-to-be-expected threat of folk medicine.  The eyes of the maned wolf are purported to bring good fortune and as a result are made into amulets.  This is very local, not big business, and certainly not a serious threat to the species, but a change would be helpful.

The most remarkable feature of the maned wolf are the legs.  Extraordinarily long, they are thought to be an adaptation enabling the species to see its prey in the tall grass. The legs have a pacing gait which allows each side of the body to move together, helping it to travel quickly across large areas of its territory.

Maned wolf pup curled upManed wolves weigh up to seventy-five pounds, can reach over three feet at the shoulder and be as long as five and a half feet from head to tip of tail.  The ears are large, and can be rotated when listening for prey moving through the high grass. 

Maned wolves have reddish-brown fur with black legs, a black muzzle, white markings on the throat and a white tip on the tail.  They have a distinctive black ‘mane’ which, when erect, signals displays of aggression or potential threats, rather like a domestic dog’s hackles going up.

The species does not come together in packs, which is quite unusual in the canid world. They are mainly solitary animals and nocturnal hunters.  In order to flush out its prey, the maned wolf will tap its foot on the ground, pounce and kill.  It will kill the prey by biting the neck or back, or simply by shaking it to death.

Maned wolf carrying pupManed wolves are monogamous, coming together only during the breeding season.  There is  a gestation period of up to sixty-five days.   After which a litter of anything between one and six pups, each weighing about one pound, will be born.  Both eyes and ears are closed until the pups are nine days old.  The mother will provide regurgitated food when they reach four weeks.  By ten weeks, their black fur will change to red, and by fifteen weeks they will be fully weaned.  They will still be reliant upon their parents for provision of food for their first year, at the end of which they will be fully grown.  Originally, it was thought the female alone cared for the young. Now it is believed the male also takes part in this process.

Natural Habitat
Semi-open tall grasslands, wet grassland, woodlands and scrub forest.
Where
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru.  Possibly Uruguay – but it is generally thought they have been extirpated.
What they eat
Fruits and vegetable matter, insects, small reptiles, birds and small mammals such as cuis, rabbits and viscachas.
Threats
Habitat reduction due to agricultural conversion (mainly to soy bean plantations) and road building.  Maned wolves are often killed on the roads, too.  Competition with, and the transmission of diseases from, domestic dogs has also played a part in their decline. “The maned wolf is particularly susceptible to infection by the giant kidney worm, a potentially fatal parasite that may also infect domestic dogs.” (Wikipedia)  Body parts are sometimes used in local folk medicine.  The species do not have any natural predators.
Status:  Near Threatened 
The Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Near Threatened (likely to become endangered in the near future).  The species is also listed under  CITES Appendix 11.  It is protected in Argentina as an endangered species and included on the list of threatened animals in Brazil.  It is also included in the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species List.  Hunting is prohibited in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.  Law enforcement is lax.

There are thought to be little more than twenty thousand maned wolves left in the wild today.  Most of these are found in Brazil.

There are over four hundred maned wolves reportedly kept in captivity.  Less than one hundred of these are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.  Mane wolves breed don’t well in captivity and there is a high recorded mortality rate of pups. There are various other conservation plans in progress initiated by a wide variety of non-profit organisations.  One of which is the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – forest conversion plans have been put in place in the hope of restoring some of the maned wolf’s habitat.

Related Articles
Dying Wolf Given Stem Cells Stuns Vets With Recovery (2011)
The Maned Wolves of Caraca Natural Park
In Brazil, tracking the Big Five: maned wolf

The Chilling Destruction That Affects Us All!


Chilling Destruction

“Take sides! Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Elie Wiesel

It is truly shocking the way man has bludgeoned his way into forests, woodlands and plains, and burned,  pushed or starved the indigenous species out and taken what is rightfully theirs.

Those they have not deprived of food and habitat, they have slaughtered in their multitudes, and used every part of their bodies for supposed medicinal human benefit or food.  Some they have kept for amusement.  Many babies have been stolen from their mothers for the pleasure of heartless, self-serving pet owners and profit-making establishments.

Were these creatures themselves human, these deplorable acts would have been construed as crimes against humanity.  There is something monstrously obscene about trapping an animal in the wild and taking it away from its home.  Rather like kidnapping innocent and defenceless children.  A dreadful crime!

There is something equally repugnant about killing an animal for its offspring, fashion, medicine or the consumption of supposed food delicacies.  An unforgivable transgression!

The rainforests (the homes of innumerable  species) are being destroyed at a truly alarming rate.  The importance of these areas does not need underlining, but the devastation is now so great, the future of this planet looks far from promising.

There has never been a more appropriate time to end this chilling destruction and step up the tracking down and punishing of these irresponsible, ignoble, cold-blooded beings, and the heads of corporations so heavily involved in all of this, before it is all too late. And, with many species, we are already dangerously close to that point. 

We don’t all have to get on a plane and fight these atrocious people and organisations first hand.  We can help by spreading awareness, signing petitions as they arise, and writing to governments and other appropriate authorities.

The animals and their rainforests are going fast.  When they are gone, WE won’t be far behind!

Some articles of interest
Brazil says Amazon deforestation rose 28% in a year

Brazil blames organised crime for rise in deforestation
Forest change mapped by Google Earth

Amazon Destruction: Why is the rainforest being destroyed in Brazil?
TROPICAL RAINFORESTS OF THE WORLD
Deforestation Figures for Selected Countries

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 79 – The Ka’apor Capuchin Monkey


Capuchin monkey

“If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature”
Ronald Wright

Endemic to Brazil, the Ka’apor Capuchin (Cebus kaapori) is a recently discovered member of the Cebidae family of monkeys. Targeted by hunters and having suffered from devastating habitat loss, the species has become one of the most threatened primates in the largest rainforest on Earth; living in a region with the highest level of deforestation and habitat degradation in the entire Brazilian Amazon. There are now very few Ka’apors left in the wild.

Capuchins Capuchin monkeys are among the most recognisable types of monkey on the planet.  These irrepressible and highly intelligent little primates have been trapped and captured for centuries, and used for man’s entertainment and amusement by organ grinders and exotic pet seekers.  Consequently, there are more Capuchin monkeys in captivity in the world than any other species.  For most, this means a life of isolation, anguish and gloom, and often they do not live long.  But, some are lucky, and happy Capuchins are known to be very talkative, incurably curious, highly intelligent and extremely mischievous.  Ka’apor Capuchins are also hunted mercilessly for bush-meat.

The Ka’apor species lacks the tuft of hair on its head which most others Capuchins have.  They have semi-prehensile tails, short fingers and opposable thumbs.  They also possess perfectly adapted large, square premolars with dense enamel to aid nut-cracking. Brown-tufted Capuchins have been observed using tools for this purpose.  Having developed an anvil system, they were able to crack open hard-shelled nuts using large rocks.  Aside from man and the apes, the Capuchins are the only other primates known to do this.

Adult coats of the Ka’apor are grey to reddish-brown on the back and outer limbs.  Heads and shoulders are creamy-white to silver-grey, withKa'apor capuchin a black triangular cap on the head, and faces are bare and pink in colour, as are the ears.  Hands and feet are blackish.  The species is sexually dimorphic and weighs an average of six and a half pounds. Adult Capuchins stand almost eighteen inches tall and have a tail which is roughly twenty inches long.

Ka’apor Capuchin monkeys are both arboreal and quadrupedal.  They can be found in the lower mid-canopy and the understorey, which they move through in on all fours using their semi-prehensile tails whilst feeding.

Communication within the species is wide and varied.  Capuchins use a whole range of vocal, olfactory and visual communications within their troops.  Social grooming is used as a form of bonding. Ka’apor capuchin monkey

Ka’apors are polygamous and occur in groups of up to fifteen individuals.  The breeding season ranges from October to February, followed by an average gestation period of one hundred and sixty days.  Females usually give birth to one baby, rarely twins, and will only birth every two to four seasons.  Infants cling to the mother’s back for the first three months.  By six months, they are becoming more independent and taking solids, and will soon be fully weaned.

The Ka’apor Capuchin was only recently elevated to species status.  It had been formerly classified as a sub-species of the wedge-capped Capuchin.

The Ka’apor Capuchin monkey is named after the Urubu-Ka’apor Indians, who live in the region where the monkey was first discovered.

The Ka’apor Capuchin, as with other species of Capuchin, is widely used in laboratory research.

Habitat
Lowland Amazonian high forest
Where
The Brazilian states of Pará and Maranhão.
What they eat
Fruits, seeds and arthropods, frogs, nestlings and even small mammals;  supplemented by stems, flowers and leaves.
Threats
Habitat loss due to logging, forest clearance for cattle ranching, and industrial agriculture, and extensive hunting for food.  The Guajá, or Awá, Indians in Maranhão, who hunt all primate species within their reserve (and, whose land and lives have also been destroyed by illegal logging) are known to keep orphaned Capuchin and other primates as pets.  These small monkeys are also collected for the international illegal pet trade.
Status: Endangered
The Ka’apor capuchin (Cebus kaapori) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1 and listed on The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012-2014.  Ka’apors are located in the protected area of the Gurupi Biological Reserve in the State of Maranhão , which was created in 1988.  More than half of the reserve’s forest has since been lost due to selective logging. This was particularly prejudicial to the species as trees which provided the fruit Ka’apors favoured, and which made up most of their diet, were lost.   The IUCN has documented  a drastic decline in numbers of at least 80% over the past three generations. 

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 77 – The Northern Brown Howler


Brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba)

Photographer – Peter Schoen

“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to”
Terry Swearingen

If you have ever been lucky enough to have heard a howler monkey calling in the wild, you will know how it got its name.  Arguably one of the loudest animals on the planet, they can be heard up to three miles away through the dense jungle.  Alexander von Humboldt said about howler monkeys, “their eyes, voice, and gait are indicative of melancholy”.  The howlers in this clip may not be of the sub-species guariba guariba, but the sound is typical of the species in general.  And, believe me, this is not something you need to take you by surprise in the dark.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists most of these sedentary, arboreal howler monkeys (fifteen species) as threatened, due to human activities such as ceaseless hunting for bush meat, and habitat loss and degradation.  But, for the most part, the howlers are still fairly plentiful, with the exception of the Mexican howler (Alouatta palliata mexicana – a sub-species of the mantled howler) and today’s highlighted species, the northern brown howler (Alouatta guariba guariba).  They have both suffered to the point of being driven to near extinction.

Howler monkeysHowler monkeys are a large and inexpensive source of protein.  One monkey could easily feed a family of four.  And, they are slow and docile, which makes them easy prey.  Then, there are the usual illegal logging activities and other forms of human encroachment that we see everywhere across the globe.  The locations change, but the threats remain the same.

Howlers are not only large themselves, but they are also among the largest of the New World monkeys.  They range in bodily height from two to three feet.  Added to that, they have extremely long, prehensile tails which can measure anything from three feet to an astounding three times the size of the monkey itself.  This tail is invaluable to the New World monkeys.  They use it to travel through the branches and can wrap it round and swing freely to pluck leaves and fruit with their hands.

Another helpful augmentation of the howlers is their incredibly keen sense of smell. They have short stumpy, round noses which Howler monkey (Alouatta guariba) in Santa Maria de Jetiba, Brazil.can sniff out nourishment (the nostrils have sensory hairs inside) at over two to three miles.  Possibly no coincidence that they can be heard that far away as well.

A further adaptation is the molars, specially designed to shear through tougher leaves.

But, it doesn’t end there.  These marvellous monkeys are also blessed with trichromatic colour vision, which is thought to have developed in the species to allow selection of the very best leaves available.

One last staggering attribute is, of course, that voice.  A combination of large throat with specialised vocal chords and larynx produces a whole range of growls, barks, howls and roars.  This ability is unique to the howler species.

Howler monkeys are slow-moving folivores.  They spend most of the daylight hours relaxing in the trees.  The rest of their time is shared between eating, travelling and grooming. They move quadrupedally along the tops of branches, using their hands and their long, strong tails.  They live in groups of four or five.  Occasionally there are more. One dominant male usually rules the troop.

Baby howler monkey at the Sloth Sanctuary, Costa Rica by Jonathan LeyHowler monkeys do not have a specific breeding season, but females are only able to produce offspring every twenty-two months.  One infant will be born as a result of the liaison, after a gestation period of six months.  Most infants are weaned at one year, and reach maturity at five years (male) and approximately three and a half years (female).

The species, brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba), lives in forests in south-eastern Brazil and far north-eastern Argentina.  There are two sub-species; today’s featured northern brown howler (Alouatta guariba guariba), listed as ‘critically endangered’, and the southern brown howler (Alouatta guariba clamitans) listed as ‘of least concern’.

Habitat
Sub-montane, montane and lowland forests.
Where
Brazil:  The Northern brown howler is confined to a small area north of the  Rio Jequitinhonha.  The Jequitinhonha flows through the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
What they eat
Mature leaves, though younger leaves are preferred.  Mature fruit is also an important part of the diet.  And, they will also eat, buds, flowers, and nuts.
Threats
Hunting and  deforestation, hunting being the larger threat as they are ale to  survive in small fragments of forest if they are left alone by hunters.  They are both susceptible to, and carriers of, disease.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Northern brown howler (Alouatta guariba guariba), is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  It has been on the critical list since 1996.  It is also protected by  Cites Appendix 11.  Little over two hundred of the species still survive in the wild.  I have been unable to find any record of Northern howler monkeys being kept in zoos, either in captive breeding programs or as an attraction.

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