Wildlife in our backyard!!

Submitted by editor on 23 May 2014.

What do people think about having marmosets in their backyard? Happy to feed them? Afraind of diseases? And how does interactions with humans affect Marmoset population biology? Find out in the Wildlife Biology paper "Wildlife in our backyard: interactions between Wied's marmoset Callithrix kuhlii (Primates: Callithrichidae) and residents of Ilhéus, Bahia, Brazil" by Romari A. Martinez and co-workers. Below is the author's summary of their stuady:

Marmosets are small Neotropical primates, many of which can live in secondary habitats with certain degrees of human influence. Members of the genus Callithrix are restricted to Brazil, and several of its species represent the best succeeded cases of urban invasion and establishment, with the not-so-happy consequences for humans, domestic animals and local wildlife.

Southern Bahia holds one of the most diverse and endangered regions of the globe. Our Atlantic forest is considered one of the 12 biodiversity hotspots on Earth. Wied’s marmoset (Callithrix kuhlii)  is the only endemic marmoset of this region. The city of Ilhéus, in the southern coast of Bahia, is rapidly growing, with its mangroves, hills, forest fragments and riverbanks unduly occupied. Abandoned and devastated areas are giving rise to secondary forest fragments within the city, acting as potential habitats for groups of marmosets and other local fauna. Even though they are considered common, and definitely very popular among citizens of Ilhéus, nobody could accurately map populations and potential habitats for this species, and there was no information on its interactions with people and their domestic pets. This is important because marmosets can harbor several diseases transmissible to humans and their pets such as forms of herpesvirus or even rabies, and since they transit freely among forest fragments and antropogenic environments, they can carry back to natural populations certain diseases common to humans and domestic animals (i.e. leptospiroses).

Our research group has been working with marmoset mapping and their interaction with humans since 2007. We have produced, among other information, the map of potential habitats and marmoset populations in the city (see our paper in Wildlife Biology 20(2): 91-96), and we have assessed people’s feelings and attitudes towards marmosets and other primates in this and other articles. Owners of houses with backyards  and small orchards usually place feeding platforms and regularly lure marmosets with exotic and native fruit and other food, such as rice or industrialized cookies. According to our research, they have the perception that marmosets “need to be fed”, as captive animals often do.  Marmosets are frequently electrocuted when crossing electric wires, and  other not so common accidents include attacks by domestic animals or falls from phone wires or other anthropogenic heights. Even though they are seen crossing roads and avenues, roadkills are only present in the northern region of the city.

Currently, we aim to continue our mapping of marmosets and their diseases, as well as people’s feelings and actions (positive or negative) towards marmosets and other “wildlife in our backyards”.

A Wied’s marmoset eating oranges and bananas (exotic fruit) in a backyard platform in Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil.

A Wied’s marmoset coming out of a backyard shed, in Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil.

Our team evaluating an anesthesized marmoset, in this case, a juvenile male, captured with a Tomahawk live trap in a backyard in Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil. Captures are made by  a team of D.M.V. and biologists, following ethical and medical guidelines.

A Wied’s marmoset inside a Tomahawk trap, ready to be anesthesized and physically examined by our team.