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Keywords:

  • howler monkeys;
  • Alouatta pigra;
  • population density;
  • primate conservation;
  • sex ratios;
  • forest fragmentation

Abstract

Little is known about the population characteristics of Alouatta pigra under conditions of forest fragmentation–information that is important to understanding its tolerance to habitat loss. In this work we present data on forest loss and on troop size, age, and sex composition for a population of black howler monkeys existing in the fragmented landscape surrounding the Mayan site of Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. Two aerial photos (1:70,000) of the study area (261 km2) taken in 1984 and 2001 were examined to assess forest loss. Between June and December 2001 and January and March 2002 we surveyed 44 forest fragments for the presence of howler monkeys. Examination of aerial photos showed that 33% of the forest present in 1984 had disappeared by 2001, and detected an increment in the number of forest fragments present in the landscape. We discovered a total of 115 howler monkeys living in 22 of the 44 forest fragments studied, of which 107 were members of 18 troops. The rest were solitary males or small groups of males living in isolated forest fragments. Troop size ranged from two to 15 individuals (mean 5.9+3.0 ind). 31% and 15% of individuals in the troops were juveniles and infants, respectively, suggesting continued reproductive activity. Howler monkey troops in the forest fragments were on average smaller (5.9±3.0 ind) than troops in the nearby protected forest of the Mayan site (7.0±2.8 ind). The mean density of howlers in the forest fragments was 119±82.9 ind/km2. The establishment of corridors is suggested as a possible conservation scenario for the fragmented howler population investigated, and as a conservation measure to connect this population with the howler population found in the protected forest of the Mayan site. Am. J. Primatol. 58:45–55, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.