International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 919–929 | Cite as

Population Size and Characteristics of Alouatta pigra Before and After a Major Hurricane

  • Mary S. M. PavelkaEmail author
  • Keriann C. McGoogan
  • Travis S. Steffens


Although some environmental risks and resources are known to affect the evolution of primate social groups, we know little about the effect of major natural disturbances on primate populations. Hurricane Iris hit the Monkey River watershed in southern Belize in October 2001, presenting a unique opportunity to document the effects of a natural disaster under circumstances wherein some pre-hurricane data were available. We measured the characteristics of the population of black howlers in the affected forest 3.5 years after the storm and compared the population data with pre-hurricane data from a 52-ha study area, that may represent the larger continuous riverine forest and from which all monkeys were known. From February to May 2004, we sampled 28.77 km2 of the 96-km2 forest fragment via five transects walked 12 times each. From these data we estimate that the population in the watershed has dropped from 9784 to 1181 monkeys, a reduction of 88%, reflected by both a 79% drop in the number of social groups and a 38% reduction in group size. Before the storm, 75% of the social groups were multimale; after the storm, 74% of the groups were unimale. While the ratio of adult females to males improved slightly, the ratio of adults to immatures, and adult females to immatures more than doubled, indicating a much lower potential for growth. These data provide a quantitative assessment of how a major natural disturbance can affect a primate population.


Alouatta pigra group size hurricane local extinction natural disturbance population density population growth 



We would like to thank the people of Monkey River for their help throughout this project and especially to our forest guides, as well as Tracy Wyman and Aaron Osicki for maps and Shelley Alexander for satellite images and for their assistance with all the mapping aspects of this project. We are grateful to all of the researchers who helped with the data collection, including Allison Maclean, Greg Bridgett, and Alison Behie, and to Linda Fedigan and Colin Chapman for helpful discussions regarding the framework of the paper. We would like to acknowledge our funding sources, including the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, and University Research Grants Committee at the University of Calgary, Province of Alberta Graduate Scholarship, National Geographic, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Post Graduate Scholarship and Discovery Grant Programs. Finally, the manuscript was greatly improved by helpful comments by two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary S. M. Pavelka
    • 1
    Email author
  • Keriann C. McGoogan
    • 2
  • Travis S. Steffens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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