A PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF THE POPULATION, POTENTIAL FOOD RESOURCES, AND HABITAT CONNECTIVITY OF ALOUATTA PIGRA IN THE NATURAL PROTECTED AREA OF MÉTZABOK, CHIAPAS, MEXICO
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Black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) are limited to only a few sites in Central America and are considered to be endangered and threatened with extinction by the IUCN. The leading causes of their status are deforestation and forest fragmentation, both of which can result in isolated breeding populations, reduced fecundity, and local extinctions (Crocket 1998; Pavelka and Chapman 2006; Strier 2007; Van Belle and Estrada 2006). In collaboration with CONANP (Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas), we collected preliminary data regarding the population, potential food resources, and habitat connectivity of A. pigra in the Natural Protected Area (NPA) of Métzabok, Chiapas, Mexico between 4 June and 4 August 2009. We observed calls from at least 14 exclusive groups, 7 of which were located during transect census. Population trends revealed 2-5 group members with single male, multiple female compositions. We assessed a representative sample of 1/5 ha of forest for resource potential throughout the NPA. We collected 102 botanical samples from 20 families and 29 genera. Of these species, 14 were directly observed as feeding trees and 2 were confirmed as food resources by seed collection from feces. Using remote imagery, we analyzed forest connectivity and revealed isolated loss in the structural connectivity of the forest canopy bordering Métzabok. With the aid of the information regarding howler densities, available food resources, and the degree of fragmentation of potential howler habitats presented in this study, government management programs can make informed decisions to prevent localized extinctions.