International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 134–148 | Cite as

Focusing Conservation Efforts for the Critically Endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps) Using Remote Sensing, Modeling, and Playback Survey Methods

  • Mika Peck
  • James Thorn
  • Ana Mariscal
  • Abigail Baird
  • Diego Tirira
  • Dominic Kniveton


Brown-headed spider monkeys (Ateles fusciceps), endemic to the Choco-Darien forests and lower Andean forests of NW Ecuador, are considered critically endangered. Unfortunately, scientific data regarding the actual status of populations is lacking. We combined satellite image analysis, species-specific habitat assessment, and a field survey technique using playback to focus conservation efforts for this species. First, we identified remaining forest via a LANDSAT mosaic and then applied species-specific criteria to delineate remaining forest with potential to hold populations. By combining this with the historical distribution from ecological niche modeling and predicted hunting intensity we generated a species-specific landscape map. Within our study area, forest capable of sustaining Ateles fusciceps covers 5872 km2, of which 2172 km2 (40%) is protected. Unprotected forest considered suitable for Ateles fusciceps extends to 3700 km2 but within this only 989 km2 (23%) is under low hunting pressure and likely to maintain healthy populations of Ateles fusciceps. To overcome problems of sampling at low primate density and in difficult mountain terrain we developed a field survey technique to determine presence and estimate abundance using acoustic sampling. For sites under low hunting pressure density of primates varied with altitude. Densities decreased from 7.49 individuals/km2 at 332 masl to 0.9 individuals/km2 at 1570 masl. Based on combining data sets in a gap analysis, we recommend conservation action focus on unprotected lowland forest to the south and west of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve where hunting pressure is low and population densities of Ateles fusciceps are greatest.


Ateles fusciceps Brown-headed spider monkey Ecological niche modeling Habitat mapping LANDSAT MaxEnt 



We thank all the members of the PRIMENET project for their hard work in and out of the field. In addition, we particularly thank Fionn Magnusson, Martin Padbury, Xavier Cueva, and all the parabiologists. We are extremely grateful to the Darwin Initiative (DEFRA) for funding the PRIMENET project, and the Holly Hill Trust, Primate Conservation International, ABWAK (Association of British Wild Animal Keepers), and The International Primatological Society and the Primate Society of Great Britain for support of student and parabiologist fieldwork. We thank 3 anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Dr. Joanna Setchell for the time and effort in helping to improve the manuscript. For free satellite imagery we thank NASA Landsat Program, 2001, Landsat TM, scene 034-079, L1G, EarthSat, Washington, March 31, 2008; NASA Landsat Program, 1986, Landsat TM, scene 074-232, Orthorectified, Geocover, EarthSat, Washington, January 31, 2008.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mika Peck
    • 1
  • James Thorn
    • 2
  • Ana Mariscal
    • 3
  • Abigail Baird
    • 2
  • Diego Tirira
    • 4
  • Dominic Kniveton
    • 5
  1. 1.University of SussexBrightonUK
  2. 2.Nocturnal Primate Research Group, School of Social Sciences and LawOxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK
  3. 3.Corporacion Botanica Ecuadendron, c/o Herbario Nacional del Ecuador (QCNE)QuitoEcuador
  4. 4.Fundación Mamíferos y ConservaciónQuitoEcuador
  5. 5.Department of GeographyUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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