The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Building a GIS geodatabase to aid in black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) conservation management strategies


Department of Anthropology, The University of Texas at San Antonio

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GIS geodatabases can inform primate conservation management by organizing data regarding vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered species. One such endangered species is the black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra). To assess black howler monkey demographic patterns, I compiled and adjusted available data from 19 research sites throughout the species’ range (Van Belle and Estrada 2006). For each site, I used ArcGIS to associate statistics for population density, group size, adult male to female ratio, and immature to adult female ratio with spatial reference points. To integrate demography with ecology, I added categorical data layers for degree of habitat protection, elevation, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), proximity to water resources, and proximity to roads. I placed a 5, 10, and 20 km buffer around each site reference point to assess ecological constraints. For each variable, I extracted parameters for species viability and combined them with known parameters (Luecke 2004) as a proxy to generate two best fit polygons. These polygons model the most operable corridors for A. pigra landscape conservation efforts without isolating breeding populations. In terms of demography, immature to adult female ratio and population density were the most important in corridor modeling. In terms of ecological variables, NDVI, elevation, and degree of formal habitat protection were the most limiting. The resulting model can be continuously adapted and expanded with the changing ecological, social, and economic data that make conservation strategies so complex. More importantly, such a model can be used as a tool to manage declining primate species worldwide.

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