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Keywords:

  • Cebus capucinus;
  • anthropogenic change;
  • provisioning;
  • diet;
  • habitat disturbance;
  • ethnoprimatology

Abstract

Non-human primates are coming into increasingly frequent contact with humans and with human-modified environments. The potential for monkeys to survive in such modified landscapes is questionable, and is likely related to a species' behavioral plasticity, particularly as it relates to diet. In this study, I explore the ways in which white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) adjust their diet and foraging behaviors in response to anthropogenic impact. I compare a troop of human-commensal monkeys and a similar troop of wild-feeding monkeys living within the Curú Wildlife Refuge in western Costa Rica for differences in overall diet composition and activity budgets to evaluate the impact of habitat change in this context. The commensal-living white-faced capuchins rely on raided coconut (Cocos nucifera) and oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) crops and provisioned or stolen human foods for over one-half of their total diet. Regardless of this highly anthropogenic diet, the two study troops do not significantly differ in their activity budgets, and the human-commensal troop maintains wild-foraging activities consistent with those of the wild-feeding troop. These data suggest that the white-faced capuchins at this site are responding to anthropogenic disturbance primarily through the exploitation of human food resources, but they do not yet appear to have lost the foraging skills required to survive in this modified landscape on their own. This study adds to our growing body of knowledge on primate survival in matrix habitats, and will hopefully inform primate management plans throughout the Neotropics. Am. J. Primatol. 73:439–448, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.