Assessing the importance of artificial canopy bridge design for Costa Rican monkeys in an experimental setting
Although artificial crossing structures are increasingly implemented by conservationists and wildlife managers to connect fragmented wildlife habitat, the study of artificial crossing structure design, particularly of canopy bridges, is an emerging field of study in primatology. We address this issue by evaluating five competing bridge models with varying width, material stiffness, and substrate spacing. We assessed bridge preference and performance by sampling the behavior of three species of Costa Rican monkeys (Alouatta palliata: n = 4, Ateles geoffroyi: n = 3, Cebus imitator: n = 3). In a semi-wild setting, we used focal individual sampling with instantaneous recording once every minute for ten-minute intervals and all occurrences sampling whenever study subjects used the bridge. We hypothesized that monkeys prefer bridges that are more stable, and that are made of materials that resemble tree branches. During nearly 37 sampling hours we observed 119 crossing events. We found that study subjects prefer bridge models that are built using more rigid materials, such as the bamboo pole bridge, or wider bridges that offer more stability than narrower bridges. The bridge type and the materials used to build the bridges are both significant predictors of bridge use. While preference for bridges and their performance varies by species, the bamboo pole bridge model and the horizontal mesh bridge were preferred and performed best in our study. The simple liana bridge model was the least preferred by all species and performed poorly in comparison to the other models. Our findings will help us better understand how design and materials impact the use of canopy bridges by monkeys, which can help improve biological corridors and offer new information for the management and conservation of primates living near infrastructure corridors and other kinds of dangerous matrix.