April 22, 2009
A new campaign headed by Dr. Julio Cesar Bicca-Marques wants to set the record straight. The campaign, entitled ‘Save Our Guardian Angels’, is working to inform the public of the actual and important role of howler monkeys in yellow fever outbreaks.
Adult male brown howler monkey. Photo Julio Cesar Bicca Marques.
Since the end of 2008, seven people have died from yellow fever in Rio Grande do Sul, while nine more have succumbed to the disease in the state of Sao Paulo. It was this sudden outbreak of the disease that led some unknown locals to poison the howler monkeys. Bicca-Marques, a primatologist at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, says that the media is partly to blame for the misinformation that leading to the howler monkeys’ death.
Female black-and-gold howler monkey. Photo by: Julio Cesar Bicca Marques.
Howler monkeys in Brazil are not just suffering from human ignorance. Other threats have caused the two species of howler monkey in the state to be listed as Vulnerable on the Red List in Rio Grande do Sul.
“In addition to the current high mortality by yellow fever and the killing of monkeys as a consequence of this misinformation, both black-and-gold Alouatta caraya and brown Alouatta guariba clamitans howler monkeys are threatened by habitat loss, and the illegal hunting and pet trade,” Bicca-Marques says. “As a consequence they live mostly in small populations in highly fragmented and isolated forest patches within an agricultural and cattle ranching landscape.”
Infant brown howler monkey with parent. Photo Julio Cesar Bicca Marques.
Bicca-Marques hopes that his campaign will effectively educate local Brazilians about the innocence of howler monkeys when it comes to yellow fever. In fact, the monkeys are actually more susceptible to the disease than people, often succumbing within a few days of being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus.
“It is crucial to inform the population that there is no possibility that the spread of the disease within the State of Rio Grande do Sul, or the State of São Paulo where an outbreak began this year, has any relationship with the howler monkeys,” Bicca-Marques says. “The campaign Protect our Guardian Angels has this goal.”
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