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A long term monitoring study to evaluate the primate conservation status in Panama using species distribution modelling and complementary information

MENDEZ-CARVAJAL, PEDRO,GUILLERMO (2019) A long term monitoring study to evaluate the primate conservation status in Panama using species distribution modelling and complementary information. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 04 December 2021.


This thesis presents an account of research into the presence, absence and actual distribution of primate species in the Central American country of Panama, including research on local human perceptions of primates and their implications for the survival of primate populations. I mixed qualitative research methods and a variety of quantitative methods to examine primate population presence/absence, distribution and size. This thesis gives an account of a range of techniques to easily evaluate primates’ presence, their densities and habitats, revealing factors limiting primate survival, including the key factors that influence human communities’ attitudes to wildlife (analysis of the perceptions of primates held by a sample of Panamanian adults and children was employed in the latter case). From April 21 of 2001 to March 20 of 2016 I collected 1,144 presence points in a non-systematic order, including literature review of previous presence points cited in old references. MaxEnt Species Distribution Modelling was then applied to this data. This was complemented with information I obtained about population densities in continuous forest and fragmented habitats. I concluded that annual mean temperature (0.45-0.75 AUC), annual precipitation (0.60-0.75 AUC), human population presence and density are very important factors determining likelihood primate presence (0.92 AUC). These environmental parameters are affecting the presence of primates in Panama, and their migration within the country, as is the growing human population. Methodologically, I show that for small size primate species it is reasonable to run the MaxEnt programme with only environmental variables, and still have good accuracy for habitat suitability; however, for medium size primates such as spider and howler monkeys, it is recommended that remote sensing and indigenous people’s local knowledge be included to complement the accuracy of the distribution models. An innovative ‘camera trap’ system, or OCS, was used to gather visual data relevant to the estimation of primate group size. Formal and informal interviews with adults resident in Azuero peninsula, and data from school-age in the form of drawings and compositions on the theme of primates I obtained a Shannon Index of 3.8 in terms of diversity of 77 words used by local people in relation to primates, being categorized as negative, neutral, and positive. Analysis of this data provided an overview of how local people think about primates, and of their base of biological knowledge, and allowed the researcher to identify areas where improvements are needed to assist primate conservation.
The conservation status of Panamanian primates was last reviewed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1996 and 2008. This thesis presents a new conservation status evaluation, one that permits a useful assessment of the actual threats and habitat requirements of primate survivorship in Panama. This thesis proposes certain updates to the IUCN Criteria, via a new perspective on the situation facing Panamanian primates. The case study of primate evaluation and research presented in this thesis is not only relevant to Panama: it will also be useful to other countries in the Neotropics, especially those where conservation education is needed. Environmental education is an important part of conservation activities: in this thesis I show how it can be enhanced by an understanding of local people’s knowledge base as it relates to their local environments in general and to local primate species in particular. I recommend to other researchers, and those active in conservation work, the methods I have been using to survey primates in diverse habitats, and to understand the links between cultural values and primates in Azuero, one of the more fragmented areas in Panama. The research presented here will also be relevant to management support, in the case of Panamanian or other authorities needing to assess translocation options or release primates after rehabilitation.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Panama, Neotropical Primates, Fragmentation, Habitat Suitability, Distribution, Human Perception, Conservation Status
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Dec 2019 14:05

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