The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS OF HUMAN ACTIVITY ON WILD WHITE-FACED CAPUCHINS (Cebus capucinus) AT CURÚ WILDLIFE REFUGE AND HACIENDA IN PUNTARENAS, COSTA RICA

SHASTA E. WEBB1 and MICHAEL B. MCCOY2.

1Anthropology, Macalester College, 2Natural Sciences, Associated Colleges of the Midwest—San Jose Office

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White-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) in Curú Wildlife Refuge (CWR), located in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, were observed using instantaneous focal animal and group scan sampling for 8 weeks in March and April 2012. The monkeys were observed in order to assess the impact of human development and presence on monkey behavior, with a focus on aggressive, affiliative, and foraging behavior; the primary goal was to ascertain whether the capuchin populations at CWR are overhabituated. Though there exist no clear behavioral parameters that measure overhabituation, it can be defined as an extreme state of habituation in which non-human primates not only lose fear of humans, but also actively include humans in social interactions or treat them as a resource for food. Two groups (approximately 20-30 individuals each) of capuchins were observed. The first, located near the tourist development at the southwestern area of CWR, represented a habituated population that regularly foraged, rested, and groomed in the presence of humans. The second, located in the northeastern area of CWR did not visit the center of human activity and exhibited fear of humans. The habituated group exhibited significantly fewer instances of threatened behavior in response to human presence (F=39.04, df=1,58, P<0.0001) and spent significantly more time eating and foraging (F=40.4, df=1,149, P<0.0001). While the habituated monkeys at CWR may not be overhabituated, they could become that way as development, especially ecotourism, increases. Overhabituation is a problem that affects capuchins in Costa Rica. It is critical that the consequences of habituation be studied more carefully.

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