Marmosets trafficked as pets now threaten native species in Atlantic forest

One of the most devastating effects of the illegal trafficking of wild animals in Brazil is the proliferation of marmosets in large urban centers. There are two species in particular that have spread: the black-tufted marmoset (Callithrix penicillata), which is native to Brazil’s Cerrado biome and known as mico-estrela in Portuguese; and the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus), originally from the Brazilian northeast. Both were trafficked in large numbers during the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in their introduction to the Atlantic rainforest in Brazil’s southeast. “These two species are common in the southeast today. Even though trafficking may not have led to the release of so many in nature, those that were introduced multiplied in absurd numbers,” says Fabiano Melo, a professor in the forestry engineering department at Viçosa Federal University (UFV) in Minas Gerais state. Initially purchased as pets, the marmosets largely ended up being abandoned by people in forested areas close to large urban centers, where they multiplied. The problem is that when the small primates were introduced to the southeast, there were already two endemic species of marmosets in the region. Today, both are considered threatened on the IUCN Red List. The buffy-tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita), native to the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, is listed as endangered and the buffy-headed marmoset (Callithrix flaviceps), found in a small area in the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, is critically endangered. Difficult to find in nature, the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset was once widespread in…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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