Costa Rica’s Monkeys Lose Ground to Developers

This video shows close-ups of the White-faced Monkey in Costa Rica.

Reuters reports:

COSTA RICA: July 30, 2007

SAN RAMON, Costa Rica – Costa Rica has lost up to half of its monkeys over the last 12 years as developers expanding into their jungle habitat isolate them in small communities, scientists said on Thursday.

Populations of monkeys including howler [see also here], white face, spider and squirrel monkeys have declined by the thousands, scientists at a seminar estimated.

“The principal factor that reduces the populations is always sooner or later the deterioration of habitat,” University of Costa Rica researcher Gustavo Gutierrez told Reuters.

The spider monkey, characterized by its lanky limbs, has been the most affected, its population falling to 7,000 from 26,000 a dozen years ago, said University of Costa Rica ecologist Ronald Sanchez.

Costa Rica protects the environment of about a quarter of its territory to varying degrees, with 12 percent inside national parks.

But urban development, including new tourist hotels and condominiums, is making protected areas into virtual islands, fragmenting the monkeys’ habitats and inhibiting genetic diversity needed to keep them healthy, Gutierrez said.

“What we have is 25 percent of the country in islands, without genetic contact between one island and another,” Gutierrez said.

To restore the populations, scientists want the government to increase protected areas and create corridors to reconnect the isolated patches, Sanchez said.

Shifts in weather patterns believed to be caused by global warming could lead to lower growth of plants eaten by the monkeys, further hurting populations, scientists said.

Increasing tourism in Costa Rica, where 1.7 million vacationed last year, also has played a role in the population decline. Junk food like corn chips offered by well-meaning tourists is hurting the monkeys’ health, scientists said.

Story by John McPhaul

Rain forest trees growing anew on Central American farmland are helping scientists find ways for monkeys and agriculture to benefit one another: here.

Great new images of the Critically Endangered grey-crowned Central American squirrel monkey: here.

3 thoughts on “Costa Rica’s Monkeys Lose Ground to Developers

  1. Pingback: Costa Rican national parks, leatherbacks, threatened | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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