| Xuxa © CETAS Porto Seguro
| Pele © Luis Claudio Marigo
| Leonardo Neves © CETAS Porto Seguro
With only 40 Northern brown howler monkeys left in the world, the rare primate species, found only in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, faces a long road to recovery. The possibility of this happening improved February 14th with news that a breeding project for the species was off to a promising start.
A female howler monkey, known as Xuxa, was transported to the Serra Bonita Reserve where she will shortly be released into the company of the reserve’s sole male howler monkey.
In December, Xuxa was found alone near the city of Teixeira de Freitas in Brazil’s Bahia state where she was taken into care by employees of IBAMA (Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), the administrative branch of Brazil’s Ministry of Environment. After discovery, Xuxa was transported by officials to a wild animal facility in Porto Seguro.
One of the first to visit Xuxa was primatologist Leonardo Neves, an employee of Brazil’s National Center for Research and Conservation of Brazilian Primates, who is part of a multidisciplinary team spearheading recovery efforts for the Northern brown howler.
With financial support from Rainforest Trust, Neves has spent the last six months searching the Atlantic Rainforest for a female howler monkey to breed with the male at Serra Bonita. The monkey, named Pele, was given to Dr. Vitor Becker, the reserve’s director, after being released from captivity.
Neves found Xuxa’s relatively dark fur – which is typically a bright orange color – likely evidence that she fled or was released from captivity. After determining her to be in good health, he arranged for her transport to Serra Bonita, 125 miles away.
There, Xuxa was installed in an outdoor caging unit, located in the forest, where she will spend three weeks adjusting to the new environment and socializing with Pele through her cage. Following release, Xuxa will be temporarily fed until she has successfully adjusted to the natural environment and is able to forage herself.
The recovery process for the Northern brown howler monkey is hindered by the fact that human development has fragmented remaining howler monkey populations. It’s unlikely that groups containing more than a dozen mature howler monkeys now exist.
“It’s clear that translocation is the only conservation measure to prevent local extinction of some groups. The experience we’ll have with Xuxa and Pele will be very valuable in the future,” said Neves. “Serra Bonita is an ideal place to release other howlers and I hope we can continue to do so.”
“With the population of Northern brown howler monkeys so critically low, the role Serra Bonita plays in this breeding program is of absolute importance for the survival of this species,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust.
To expand the Serra Bonita Reserve and provide improved protection for the Northern brown howler monkey, Rainforest Trust has embarked on a new campaign to purchase 271 acres of Atlantic Rainforest.
Plagued by overwhelming habitat destruction and the demands of the illegal animal trade, populations of the Northern brown howler monkey have declined precipitously in recent decades. In 2012, the species was ranked by the IUCN as one of the world’s 25 most endangered primate species.
“The search for more Northern brown howler monkeys continues. I want to identify all remaining populations and create a management plan for the species,” said Neves, who hopes to continue working on the project as long as necessary.
Recovery efforts were made possible with support from Conservation International (Primate Action Fund), Rainforest Trust, IESB (Institute of Social and Environmental Studies of Southern Bahia), Instituto Uiraçu, PRNP Serra Bonita, CPB ICMBio (Brazilian National Primate Center).
Rainforest Trust would like to give a special thanks to Board member Edith McBean who generously donated to support this project.