The black-handed spider monkey is the New World’s largest and most intelligent primate. Yet, it is extremely sensitive to habitat destruction because it lives only in the forest canopy. Forest canopies must be connected in order to link spider monkeys across the landscape, but the dry tropical forest ecosystem is extremely fragmented. Making it worse, these monkeys have been hunted for food and young monkeys are often captured in the wild and sold into the illegal pet trade where they are held in inhumane conditions as household pets. The black-handed spider monkey is now locally extinct throughout much of the region. Paso Pacífico is working with western Nicaragua’s last black-handed spider monkey population in the hope of bringing the species back to the entire region.
Since 2005, Paso Pacifico has been studying and aiding the primate populations in several ways. We have built a team of six community forest rangers who patrol the forest, protecting wildlife and collecting valuable data about the monkeys. Some of them also help educate community members and care for rescued monkeys housed in the Karen Warren & Susan White Spider Monkey Sanctuary. Camera traps in the forest canopy help us follow the primates movements and better understand their needs for corridors. Additionally, remote sensing has helped us analyze the forest cover across the entire landscape to find “pinch points” where the monkeys most need a forest path in order to travel. As part of our reforestation project, we are planting thousands of fruit-bearing trees that give the spider monkeys both food and habitat.
Since we began, the population of black-handed spider monkeys in the area has increased by 60%. Now, we are working to set aside core spider monkey habitats, such as the Mono Bayo reserve. (link to land purchase page) This decades-long work has been possible through a range of supporters, including the Disney Conservation Fund, Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Primate Conservation International, and Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation.