A Potential Distribution Model and Conservation Plan for the Critically Endangered Ecuadorian Capuchin, Cebus albifrons aequatorialis


Conservation actions that effectively and efficiently target single, highly threatened species require current data on the species’ geographic distribution and environmental associations. The Ecuadorian capuchin (Cebus albifrons aequatorialis) is a critically endangered primate found only in the fragmented forests of western Ecuador and northern Peru, which are among the world’s most severely threatened ecosystems. We use the MAXENT species distribution modeling method to model the potential distribution and environmental associations of Cebus albifrons aequatorialis, using all known presence localities recorded within the last 2 decades as well as 13 climate, topography, vegetation, and land-use data sets covering the entire geographic range of the subspecies. The environmental conditions that our model predicted to be ideal for supporting Cebus albifrons aequatorialis included $\geq$ 20% tree cover, mild temperature seasonality, annual precipitation $<$ 2000 mm, and low human population density. Our model identified 5028 km2 of suitable habitat remaining, although many of these forest fragments are unprotected and are unlikely to support extant populations. Using the median population density across all sites for which data are available, we estimate the total carrying capacity of the remaining habitat to be 12,500 total individuals. The true number of remaining individuals is likely to be considerably lower due to anthropogenic factors. We highlight four critical regions of high predicted suitability in western Ecuador and northern Peru on which immediate conservation actions should focus, and we lay out clear priorities to guide conservation actions for ensuring the long-term survival of this gravely threatened and little known primate.

International Journal of Primatology