White faced monkeys, Reserva Playa Tortuga - Photo by Felipe Thomas

Let’s Give A Hand to the Monkeys

Monkeys are amazing, curious, and agile animals and one must consider the important role they play in the health of the forest ecosystem, in regard to the dispersal of seeds, regulation of insect populations, and stimulation of growth of plants from which they feed. In Costa Rica there are four species of monkey: the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata), the white-faced capuchin monkey (Cebus imitator), the Central American squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii), and Geoffroy’s spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi). However, rapid unregulated growth and deforestation has led to diminished food sources, species isolation, and decreased genetic diversity between populations. In addition, survival of these species is further threatened by climate change, fires, and collisions with automobiles. 

White Faced Cappuchin - Photo by Shannon Hollis
White Faced Cappuchin – Photo by Shannon Hollis

Monitoring Monkeys at Reserva Playa Tortuga in Ojochal

However, from the data gathered from monitoring monkeys during the last four years, Reserva Playa Tortuga has found that every year the numbers of individuals has been increasing and new juveniles have been added to the populations. This is clear evidence that, in spite of the threats, some populations of primates continue to grow in protected spaces that provide the ideal conditions which allow them to thrive. 

White faced monkey, Reserva Playa Tortuga - Photo by Felipe Thomas
White faced monkey, Reserva Playa Tortuga – Photo by Felipe Thomas

The Results of Monitoring Monkeys

In spite of the capacity for this group of mammals to flourish, it is important to reduce the potential threats that negatively impact the different species. The collection of information on these animals, such as records of sightings, numbers of individuals observed, as well as smartphone applications, such as iNaturalist, are a great help to scientists in Costa Rica in gathering knowledge and determining the status of populations, which thus aids in the development of conservation plans. In turn, the planting and protection of trees, like the guaba (Inga marginata) or the cacao (Theobroma cacao), as well as the preservation of forest corridors that serve as biological connections between monkey populations, are fundamental contributions that we can all join in the protection of these charismatic primates.

Written by Graciela Pulido, from Reserva Playa Tortuga 

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