Predicted and verified distributions of Ateles geoffroyi and Alouatta palliata in Oaxaca, Mexico
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- Ortiz-Martínez, T., Rico-Gray, V. & Martínez-Meyer, E. Primates (2008) 49: 186. doi:10.1007/s10329-008-0088-z
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Primate conservation requires a better knowledge of the distributions and statuses of populations in both large areas of habitat and in areas for which we currently have no information. We focused on spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) and howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. This Mexican state has protected large tracts of forest, and has historical records for both primates, although very little is known about them. To update our knowledge of the distributions of these primates and identify potential areas in which they are present, we modeled their geographic distributions by characterizing their ecological niches using the genetic algorithm for rule-set production (GARP), performed interviews and carried out field surveys. The predicted distributions, surveys and interviews indicate that the distributions of these primates are restricted to northeastern Oaxaca. The results suggest that spider monkeys occupy a wider area and elevational range than howler monkeys. Throughout that range there is a wide variety of suitable habitats for these primates. Most of the sites where monkeys were recorded in the field are not officially protected and there was evidence of hunting and habitat destruction. It is important to improve protection, economic alternatives and environmental education as we move towards an integral solution for the conservation of these species. Validation of the GARP model was done for A. geoffroyi, since we had obtained enough field data for this species; this validation indicated that the predicted distribution of the species was statistically better than expected by chance. Hence, ecological niche modeling is a useful approach when performing an initial assessment to identify distribution patterns, detecting suitable areas for future exploration, and for conservation planning. Our findings provide an improved basis for primate conservation and productive fieldwork in Oaxaca.