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


Impact of tourism on the behavior of red howler monkeys in Suriname

JESSICA L. WESTIN.

Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University

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Ecotourism is commonly promoted as a potential solution to issues of primate conservation; however the impact of tourism on primate populations is generally uninvestigated. Tourists alter the environments they visit in multiple important ways, and understanding how human tourism affects primate behavior is crucial for the proper management of animals, resources, and tourists. Here I present the results of a systematic study of the impact of tourism on the behavior of wild primates at the Brownsberg Nature Park in Suriname. I tested whether monkeys living in areas with high tourist activity exhibited different behavioral profiles or different response levels to human disturbance than monkeys living outside of tourist areas. I found significant differences in both aspects of behavior between my experimental and control groups. Additionally, the monkeys have very different strategies for long-term versus short-term behavioral responses to humans depending on the degree of exposure to tourists. Sex, habituation, and startle response also influence the magnitude of monkey responses to human disturbances. These results are especially interesting in light of the energetic and reproductive needs of the monkeys, and have significant implications for future primate conservation plans.

This research was funded by the Rackham Graduate School and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, and by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

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