White-faced Capuchins (Cebus capucinus) of Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica: Human Foods and Human Interactions
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Cahuita National Park is an ecotourist destination in southeast Costa Rica. A troop of white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) living in the park was reported by park officials as being problematic due to their food-raiding behavior. In May-June 2012 and again in December 2012-January 2013 I collected behavioral information in the form of scan samples and human-monkey interactions to assess the frequency and severity of these interactions. Type of food consumed was also noted, as consumption of human foods has been shown to cause both demographic and behavioral changes in non-human primate populations. Anthropogenic food sources accounted for 18% for the total dietary budget for the Playa Blanca capuchins. Additionally, the consumption of human foods was associated with increased rates of agonism. Human foods were obtained by the capuchins in one of two ways: visitors feeding the monkeys (handouts) or monkeys taking food from visitors (raiding). I suggest it would be beneficial to both monkeys and tourists alike for the park to increase signage (Spanish and English) and to provide monkey-proof strong boxes in picnic areas so visitors can secure their food. Additionally, it is important strictly enforce the rules against feeding animals in the park to educate the public on the effects such behavior can have on the capuchins.