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Reintroduction of Capuchin Monkeys to Buenaventura, Ecuador

7 July, 2010 - 10:53 -- World Land Trust

Two suitable reintroduction sites for the White-fronted Capuchin Monkey (Cebus albifrons aequatorialis) have been identified on the Buenaventura Reserve in southern Ecuador. Capuchins were last spotted in the area that is now World Land Trust (WLT) partner Fundación Jocotoco's Buenaventura Reserve, 25 years ago.

White fronted capuchins

Wild White-fronted Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus albifrons aequatorialis) found during the investigation period © Wilmer Quimíz.

Over recent months Francisco Sornoza, Fundación Jocotoco’s Director of Conservation, and researcher Wilmer Quimíz, have been investigating the potential for reintroducing White-fronted Capuchin Monkeys in the Buenaventura cloud forest reserve. During their investigations, Wilmer found a population of 14 Capuchin Monkeys 35 kilometers south of a reserve in the Aguacatillo Sector, in a forest fragment at the same elevation as Buenaventura. The similarity of this habitat with Buenaventura’s makes Buenaventura a perfect location for the species’ reintroduction. White-fronted Capuchins are endemic to humid, dry tropical and subtropical forests west of the Andes in Ecuador. The research team believes that the group found during the investigation may be the only population still surviving in the high altitude area of El Oro Province and views the reintroduction of the species into Buenaventura as an important step towards the long term survival of the species. The aim of this reintroduction project is to release the offspring of captive capuchins. The young will be reared with no human contact to prevent imprinting and to ensure that they have the best possible chances of surviving in the wild. Initially adults will be released into a large purpose built enclosure in the forest at Buenaventura - after vet screening for disease and suitable temperament.

Further information:

Learn more about the incredible wildlife in the Ecuadorian forests, including the El Oro Parakeet, on the Buenaventura Reserve page. You can also view birds and other wildlife at Buenaventura in real time thanks to WLT’s Webcam in the Forest.

Comments

Submitted by ROWENA on

What fantastic news, well done to all involved in the reintroduction.

Submitted by Timothy Gregory on

Hi to all and thanks for creating a great web site.
Is it possible to ask Sir David Attenborough for ideas in the debate on this Capuchin release topic in question?
Naturally breeding wildlife to release them is a great achievement and so it sounds like a great idea.
Capuchin Monkeys are a diverse and extraordinary group.
A New World parallel to Lemurs and Marmosets.
However, since two further newly identified rare-orchids, have been found within the same proposed Capuchin release area, it maybe these orchids may suffer as a result.
Those rare plants might be only now becoming visibly present in the reserve after an absence if they were commonly edible to monkeys.
Orchids might have just recovered lately since Capuchins were not sighted there for the last twenty five years.
Orchids may have recovered during this period while there may have been fewer extant browsing Capuchin monkeys.
Most flowers and seeds are monkey food and might soon be eaten. It could be that there may be little impact on orchids.
In general most orchids incur damage from confining Capuchins in fragile, rare-orchid habitats.
Orchids are also commonly fertilised by humming birds and wasps and bird-nests are a common target of monkeys.
Rare orchids might become reduced to foliage only and effectively unsuccessful as reproductive plants.

These and similar cross-purposes are recurring problems in wildlife conservation where land areas are confined.
Small reserves such as the rare-orchid sites in Ecuador, do collapse from wildlife denudation.
Down in Australia wild Koalas were introduced onto ate all the trees on French Island and soon ate all the Eucalyptus trees and starved to death.
The Koala numbers increased due to the absence of predators on French Island.
Thanks for your interest in my question and hope to hear from readers who may have any ideas about it.

Submitted by Lou Jost on

Timothy Gregory makes an important point about possible unwanted and unanticipated consequences of reintroduction. In the case of the orchids, though, it is good to remember that the orchids of Buenaventura have evolved in the presence of this same species of capuchin for thousands of years. Re-establishing a natural balance between capuchins, orchids, and pollinators would seem to be the strategy most likely to guarantee long-term conservation of all of Buenaventura’s web of species. Leaving out the capuchins amounts to a conservation decision itself, perhaps favoring wasps and bees, with other possible unintended consequences. The only system we know is more or less stable is the one that existed just before humans started eliminating species. That should be the default target for conservationists.
Nevertheless, the capuchin re-introduction program will need to take into account the fact that many predators of capuchins (and other mid-sized mammals) have now been either eliminated or made scarce in the area. This means mid-sized mammals might overshoot their target level, like the Koalas mentioned by Timothy. This will need to be watched.

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