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Long-term assessment of the translocation of an endangered primate into an agroforestry system

Montserrat Franquesa-Soler, John F. Aristizabal*, Ellen Andresen, Itsaso Vélez del Burgo, Aralisa Shedden-González, Ernesto Rodríguez-Luna

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Wildlife management increasingly uses translocation as a conservation tool, but long-term assessments of the animals’ establishment in the new habitat are rarely done. Also, finding protected areas for translocations can often be a limitation, but habitat patches managed for productive purposes could potentially be used for translocations. Here, we present a translocation case study of the Endangered Mexican howler monkey Alouatta palliata mexicana into a forest fragment managed as an agroforest in the Los Tuxtlas (Mexico). We compared the behavior of the translocated focal group 6 years after translocation with that observed 1 year after translocation (Year-1 vs. Year-6), and with reference parameters for conserved forest. We also examined the 14-year trajectory of the translocated population through published data. We found that in Year-6, monkeys spent less time on locomotion and more time consuming fruit than in Year-1. The focal group in Year-6 doubled its activity area compared to Year-1. All behavioral parameters during Year-6 were similar to those reported for the species in conserved forest. During the first 14 years, the translocated population increased at a rate of 1.29 individuals/year. We conclude that the translocation succeeded in establishing a thriving population and that certain agroforestry systems may be adequate habitat for primate translocations. We also discuss how the translocation of howler monkeys into defaunated habitats might help restore ecological functions associated with these primates, such as the dispersal of large-seeded plants. Long-term information on successful primate translocations has high practical value for designing adequate conservation strategies in anthropogenic landscapes.