Variation in Food Availability and Ranging Behavior in Colobus vellerosus with Increasing Population Density
Changing environmental conditions, and in particular habitat loss, is a major threat to many primate populations (Estrada et al., 2017). Habitat loss can compress populations and reduce access to food, which may negatively impact individual health and reproduction (Acevedo-Whitehouse & Duffus, 2009; Kamilar & Beaudrot, 2018). Individuals may mitigate the costs associated with changing conditions by altering their behaviors (Beever et al., 2017). However, little is known about the long-term consequences and limits of behavioral flexibility (Maspons et al., 2019). I used long-term ecological, demographic, and ranging behavior data collected between 2000-2016 on the white-thighed black and white colobus (Colobus vellerosus) population at Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary in Ghana to investigate whether the increasing colobus population density is associated with overfeeding of important food trees, changes in access to food, and altered ranging patterns. I also examined whether a group's competitive ability (proxied by group size and male group composition) moderated changes in food availability and ranging patterns. I found the increasing population density to be associated with an increased probability of trees having a bare leaf cover and colobus having shorter daily travel distances. While daily travel distance increased with group size, access to food was not associated with group size or male group composition. Understanding the ability for populations to cope with environmental changes, such as increasing population density, can be used to assess how likely populations are to persist over time and inform conservation decisions.