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Influence of habitat on golden-headed lion tamarins foraging behavior (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) in Southern Bahia, Brazil

This Masterthesis was supported by AMAP in 2017/2018 and was conducted within the Monitoring project of Liontamarins.

Golden-headed lion tamarins  are threatened by continued habitat degradation in Brazils’ Atlantic Forest. As mature forests are dwindling they are forced to exploit other habitat types, such as secondary forests and shaded cocoa agroforest (cabruca). These differ in their structure and availability of resources, which in turn can influence lion tamarins’ behavior. Understanding their habitat requirements can have an important part in successful conservation of this endangered species. With a focus on foraging behavior, in this study, the effects of environmental differences on this species’ behavior between three habitat types were examined. To address this issue, focal data was collected for three groups of golden-headed lion tamarins in the Una Biological Reserve, each of them combining mature forest, secondary forest and cabruca within their home ranges. The results were compared to an additional group that exclusively inhabits cabruca. The behavior in cabruca was generally similar to mature forest. However, clear differences to secondary forest show that the environment indeed influences lion tamarins’ behavior. The results not only highlight the importance of cabruca as an alternative habitat to mature forest, but also show the benefits each habitat type offers. While for resting and social behaviors lion tamarins seek dense secondary forest to make use of a reduced predation risk, they focus on foraging for food in mature forest and cabruca. Here, the abundance of substrates to forage for animal prey plays an important role, with a preference for epiphytic bromeliads in each habitat type. The results suggest that mature forest and well-managed cabruca agroforest are essential in long-term conservation of golden-headed lion tamarins. In addition, the introduction of appropriate foraging substrates should be considered in reforestation projects to improve the suitability of secondary forest as habitat for lion tamarins in an early stage.

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