More than half of the world's primates are now threatened with extinction as a result of habitat loss, hunting pressures, and the multi-faceted effects of global climate change. Yet, despite these ongoing challenges, long-term studies of wild primate populations are revealing unexpected levels of behavioral flexibility that may ultimately contribute to their survival. To illustrate the potential for resilience of primates, I will draw on the behavioral, ecological, and demographic changes documented during my 34-year long field study of a growing population of the critically endangered northern muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus), whose uniquely egalitarian societies and extraordinary levels of tolerance toward one another make them the most peaceful primates on the planet. As their population has grown from about 60 to some 350 individuals in one of the last remaining fragments of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, the muriquis have shifted their grouping patterns and use of vertical space, which may have affected their fertility. These changes appear to have buffered muriquis from fluctuating ecological and demographic conditions, and provide clues into what we can do to insure their survival and that of other primates in our rapidly changing world.
Karen B. Strier - Bio:
Karen B. Strier is Vilas Research Professor and Irven DeVore Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1980, she received her MA in 1981 and her PhD in 1986 in Anthropology from Harvard University. She is an international authority on the endangered northern muriqui monkey, which she has been studying in the Brazilian Atlantic forest since 1982. Her pioneering, long-term field research has been critical to conservation efforts on behalf of this species, and has been influential in broadening comparative perspectives on primate behavioral and ecological diversity. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was elected to membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. She received an Honorary Degree (Doctorate of Science) from the University of Chicago, and Distinguished Primatologist Awards from the American Primatological Society and the Midwestern Primate Interest Group. She has been awarded various research, teaching, and service awards from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has also been honored with Lifetime Honorary Memberships from the Brazilian Primatological Society and the Latin American Primatological Society, and with Honorary Citizenship of the city of Caratinga, in Minas Gerais, Brazil. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 publications, in addition to various co-authored and edited volumes and two single-authored books, Faces in the Forest: The Endangered Muriqui Monkeys of Brazil and Primate Behavioral Ecology, 5th edition. She was recently elected as the President of the International Primatological Society (2016-2020).