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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 12:57-68 (2010)  -  DOI:

Impact of the pet trade on the Margarita capuchin monkey Cebus apella margaritae

Natalia Ceballos-Mago1,*, Carlos Enrique González2, David J. Chivers1

1Wildlife Research Group, The Anatomy School, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DY, UK
2Escuela de Geografía, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Ciudad Universitaria, Caracas, Venezuela

ABSTRACT: The Critically Endangered Margarita capuchin monkey Cebus apella margaritae is a sub-species endemic to Isla de Margarita in the Venezuelan Caribbean Sea, and is the only wild primate on the island. The major threats affecting its survival are habitat fragmentation and poaching for pest control and the pet trade. As part of the Margarita Capuchin Project, a pioneering long-term project for the conservation of this monkey, we characterised the pet-primate population on a regional scale in the state of Nueva Esparta (Isla de Margarita, Isla de Coche and Isla de Cubagua) to generate recommendations for conservation decision making. We conducted a survey of pet primates in the region, made an assessment of intestinal parasites in pet primates, and interviewed hunters. Information about species, current location, sources and trade routes were gathered. We found 162 pet primates representing 5 species; of this total, 35 were Margarita capuchins. We also found that at least 100 Margarita capuchins have been hunted for the pet trade in the last 25 yr; this is cause for considerable concern in terms of the conservation of a wild population of less than 300 individuals. Illegal pet-trade on both a national and an international level was revealed in this study. We detected pet primates infected with intestinal parasites common to humans and domestic animals (Strongyloides stercolaris, Ancylostomas sp., Toxocara leonine and Blastocystis hominis), and using GIS analysis, we identified areas of potential high threat of disease transmission and hybridisation if escaped pet primates were to reach the Margarita capuchin habitat. Preventing the illegal trade of all monkey species, law enforcement and the establishment of a Monkey Rescue Centre to conduct a management programme for the existing Margarita capuchin pet population are among the conservation actions urgently needed in this region.

KEY WORDS: Margarita capuchin · Isla de Margarita · Pet trade · Cebus apella margaritae · Hybridisation · Disease transmission · Parasites · Isla de Coche

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Cite this article as: Ceballos-Mago N, González CE, Chivers DJ (2010) Impact of the pet trade on the Margarita capuchin monkey Cebus apella margaritae. Endang Species Res 12:57-68.

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