With the recent sighting of a critically endangered Ecuadorian Capuchin monkey in Ecuador’s Buenaventura Reserve, there is new evidence that the Reserve’s reintroduction program is succeeding.
Michael Bauer, an ornithologist studying endemic bird species, spotted the monkey on April 18th in the upper elevations of the Reserve. The individual, known as Mikey, appeared healthy and showed signs of having adapted to life in the wild.
The reintroduction program is an important effort to help the Ecuadorian Capuchin population rebound. Within the last 50 years, more than 80% of the primate’s natural habitat has been destroyed. This catastrophic loss, combined with the effects of hunting and illegal trafficking, have dramatically reduced the population of the species.
In 2010, Rainforest Trust’s Ecuadorian partner Jocotoco initiated a project to re-establish a population of Ecuadorian Capuchins in the Buenaventura Reserve. At that time, Ecuadorian Capuchins had not been seen in the area for nearly 20 years.
A group of 13 were transported to the Reserve from two rescue centers, the Cerro Blanco Forest Foundation and the Zoological Garden of Guayaquil, with the primates initially kept in an enclosure until adapted to their new environment.
After release in 2011, the monkeys began to move deeper into the Reserve and became increasingly difficult to find. The recent sighting is an encouraging sign that they have succeeded in learning to survive in natural surroundings.
Restricted to the western portion of Ecuador, Ecuadorian Capuchins inhabit forested areas from sea level to elevations of 6,000 feet in the Andean foothills. The Buenaventura Reserve, managed by Jocotoco, is one of the few protected areas providing sanctuary for the Ecuadorian Capuchin.
Despite the many challenges facing the Ecuadorian Capuchin, there is reason to hope for its future. The species is highly adaptable and can subsist on a wide assortment of foods in a variety of habitats. Once adequately protected, fragmented populations can expand their range and repopulate new areas.
Photo: Ecuadorian Capuchin spotted April 18 © Michael Bauer