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Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Buffy-Headed Marmoset: The Clown-Faced Primate Facing Multiple Threats

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We are yet to realize that we need nature, and all its members, to survive if we humans are to persist for a longer period. The world has lost two-thirds of its wildlife in the last 50 years. And all had been vital to the planet’s biosphere. Another species set to be added to the list is the buffy-headed marmoset, which has gone down to a mere 2,500 in the shrinking patches of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil.

This clown-faced monkey (Callithrix flaviceps) faces multiple threats to its survival from climate change to diseases. But perhaps the biggest threat it faces is the loss of its unique identity as mating with other species of marmoset species has led to the hybridization of the buffy-headed marmoset. These were released into the wild through the pet trade.

The Sad Situation Of The Buffy-Headed Marmoset

This miniature Brazilian monkey population is declining rapidly, but there is also a small window that could help save these unique creatures. This species of primates is a tiny, neotropical primate weighing around a mere 460 grams (1 pound). Prevalent in the Brazilian Atlantic forest in the southeastern part of the country, the species has the lowest distribution among the Callithrix genus

The buffy-headed marmoset is gray-brown though its face is cream-colored. The neck and head are in shades of yellowish-beige, with the ear tufts short and yellowish. The fur on top of their eyes has a grayish tinge and gives them the appearance of a clown.

This species of monkey is one among only two species of marmosets that live in high-altitude areas. It also inhabits a very small area, a mere 28,500 square kilometers in two Brazilian states.

Read: The Massive Long-Antlered Muntjac: Gradually Being Pushed Towards Extinction

They have diverse food habits, eating gum, insects, fruit, small birds, eggs, and frogs. They even have a liking for fungi. Being shy, they are rarely seen in the wild, and their dwindling numbers have made it even more difficult.

They were once frequent in the states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo but their number has shrunk drastically. Their habitat overlaps that of the tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita). It has led to hybridization among these breeds.

The Buffy-Headed Marmoset Faces Multiple Threats To Its Survival

The areas that the buffy-headed marmoset inhabits has suffered the maximum damage from human intrusion. Agricultural, mining, and logging activities have extensively fragmented and deforested the forest. It has threatened the very survival of the species.

Native flora has been replaced by crops like coffee, eucalyptus plantations, and pasture. The burning of forests for agricultural clearance has further decimated their habitat and subsequently their population.

buffy-headed marmoset

The introduction through the pet trade of species like the black-eared marmoset (Callithrix pencillata) and the common marmoset ( Callithrix jacchus) has caused hybridization and serious competition for dwindling resources. Hybridization causes the ultimate harm to the genetic purity of the species and could eventually lead to its extinction.

The spread of diseases like yellow fever had decimated whole populations of the buffy-headed marmoset since the previous epidemic in 2016. It has been one of the single biggest reasons for the sharp drop in the population of the species.

Read: 98% Colonies Of Emperor Penguins Facing Extinction By 2100

The buffy-headed marmoset has seen a change to the critically endangered status in the IUCN Red List and scientists guess that less than 2,500 exist in the wild. It could place it as the most threatened among primates in the world.

The policy of the government of Brazil to wipe out all forests in the name of development has already begun to take effect. The home of the buffy-headed marmoset, the Atlantic Forests is down to 11 to 16% of its original cover. Conservation efforts need financial backing, and with Jair Bolsonaro totally against any form of conservation efforts, it could be an end game for the sad-clown marmoset.




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