Conservation Biology of the Genus Alouatta
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As assessed by the IUCN Mace–Lande system, seven (35%) of the 20 Alouatta species and subspecies with adequate data are classified as “threatened,” i.e., critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable (Rylands et al., 1995). This percentage is much lower than the 75 to 100% threatened taxa for the other large-bodied genera: Ateles, Lagothrix, and Brachyteles. Only 5 of the 16 Neotropical genera have lower percentages of threatened taxa than that of Alouatta: Cebuella, Pithecia, Saguinus, Saimiri, and Cebus. The threatened howler taxa occupy small distributions in areas of forest fragmentation. In general, populations are most affected by major habitat disturbance, such as total deforestation and flooding from dam construction, and by human hunters. Facilitated by their ability to exploit folivorous diets in small home ranges, howlers can tolerate considerable habitat fragmentation but not the increased exposure to hunting that may accompany it. Howlers seem particularly vulnerable to yellow fever and bot fly parasitism. Although the former threat may decrease by increasing fragmentation of the habitat, other sorts of parasitism may increase in disturbed habitats. The low genetic variability of the Central American howlers suggests a resistance to inbreeding depression potentially experienced during population bottlenecks. Greater between-population variability may still exist. Although howlers are not readily bred in captivity, they respond well to translocation. Translocation has been successfully achieved for ≥4 howler species and is a viable option for introducing new genetic variability into population fragments and repopulating areas from which howlers are extinct. Their pattern of bisexual dispersal facilitates colonization of regenerating habitats, and in suitable, protected habitats they have shown the capacity for strong population recovery.
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