This experiment is part of the Wildlife Disease Association Challenge Grant Challenge Grant. Browse more projects

Dogs, cats and the health of capuchin monkeys at touristic paradise of Costa Rica

Raised of $4,449 Goal
Ended on 10/20/18
Campaign Ended
  • $1,369
  • 31%
  • Finished
    on 10/20/18

About This Project

Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, where tourist activities, rural environments, and wildlife are mixed. Recently, health problems have been observed in white-faced monkeys in a community on the Pacific coast, related to contact with domestic animals, such as dogs and cats. We aim to identify the risks of disease transmission that may be affecting this primate population and generate baseline information for the development of a preventive health program.

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What is the context of this research?

The capuchin monkey has been recently classified as a new species, and have not yet been assessed under the IUCN Red List. Of the four primates in Costa Rica, capuchins are the most frequently observed in disturbed environments, where interactions with humans and pets occur often. As habitat is transformed by human activities, capuchin territory is reduced and fragmented. Monkey populations are concentrated, foraging areas modified, and troop size decreases, increasing stress, immunosuppression, and disease transmission. There are no studies that evaluate how these factors affect the health of capuchins. Increasingly, monkeys with lesions have been observed near villages where they have contact with dogs and cats, and are used as tourist attractions or pets.

What is the significance of this project?

Monkeys with severe lesions have been recently observed in the Montezuma community. The origin, transmission, and potential risks for primates, other wildlife, and domestic animal health is unknown. Monkeys excluded from their troops have been found with evident loss of hair, skin lesions, and in poor body condition. Erratic, sick capuchins have been taken to emergency rescue centers, where due to logistic and economical difficulties an accurate diagnose have not been reach. This project seeks to determine the source and risk factors associated with diseases that may be causing this problem, and generate a change in the perception of human relationship with wildlife.

What are the goals of the project?

Our main research goal is to determine the agents affecting Montezuma capuchin monkeys, and evaluate how anthropogenic factors as tourist activities, and wild and domestic animal management favor the transmission of infectious diseases. We will capture 20 free ranging monkeys, from which we will collect blood, skin samples, to determine general condition and the phenotypical and molecular presence of dermatophytes, agent selected for their potential to affect the primates of this rural and touristic community of the Pacific coast. Additionally, we will encourage the neighbors to monitor the changes observed in the health of wildlife and attain the responsibility of maintaining respectful practices towards nature, including responsible ownership of domestic animals.


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Budget will be used for fieldwork (lodging, capture and sampling), purchase of reagents for laboratory analysis and awareness meetings with key groups in the community, such as youth, women and stakeholders. We will capture 20 monkeys and a sample of dogs and cats population from Montezuma, where will look for dermatophytes and ectoparasites. We will collect environmental and social data (change in land use, human population density, waste management, responsible pet ownership) that may explain us the relationship between dogs, cats and monkeys with diseases transmission. We will also strengthen knowledge and sensitize the community towards a global vision, understanding nature as an essential part of the environment, we are responsible to protect, integrating society and science to solve conservation challenges in the mesoamerican region.

Endorsed by

The human-domestic animal-wildlife disease interface has been subject of intense study for several decades where wildlife, naive to many human and domestic animal pathogens, usually getting exposed due to habitat fragmentation, the illegal trade or direct contact . This is a prime case that requires a One Health approach. I have worked with Andrea for several years and she is respected in the field of wildlife disease ecology in Costa Rica. This study will provide a unique contribution to the field. I fully endorse this with support from WDA.
This study represents a truly “One Health project”, and it is an excellent opportunity to protect the Montezuma capuchin monkey and understand how infectious diseases persist in the human-domestic animal-wildlife interface. Moreover this project enhance the integration of the local communities and empowers the people to protect their natural resources. Both researchers, Andrea and Paloma, are well-recognized scientists in Costa Rica and I have no doubt, if selected, this study will represent an outstanding example for One Health in Practice.
Andrea and Paloma were very important scientists of a nationwide monkey project in Costa Rica. What they are proposing now represents something new that we have not found in 17 years of research on monkeys, including White-Faced capuchins. I have no doubt they, with their academic background and previous experience on monkeys, will determine what is happening with the skin lesions that are affecting these monkeys in the North Pacific of our country.

Flag iconProject Timeline

Project duration is one year, with two monkey and domestic animal sampling periods: rainy season (Oct 2018), and dry season (Feb 2019). Lab detection of infectious agents will be from Nov to Dec 2018, and Mar to Apr 2019, respectively, to complete data analysis (May to Jul 2019) and creating support materials for empowerment campaign with women, young residents and stakeholders (between Aug to Oct 2019) .

Aug 10, 2018

Project Launched

Aug 21, 2018

Project Launched

Nov 01, 2018

Approaching to community and stakeholders

Nov 15, 2018

Rainy season field trip for the sampling of monkeys and domestic animals

Jan 07, 2019

Results for the processing samples from the first field trip, using PCR and serology

Meet the Team

Andrea Chaves
Andrea Chaves
Tropical Biologist, M.Sc. in Tropical Diseases, and Ph.D. in Animal Biology


AWÁ Science & Conservation
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Paloma Alcázar
Paloma Alcázar
Veterinarian, M.Sc.(c) on Conservation Medicine, Ecosystemic Health emphasis


AWÁ Science & Conservation
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Team Bio

AWÁ Science & Conservation, a non-profit association formed by biologists and veterinarians who work in research, education and social action in disease ecology, conservation and related topics in Costa Rica. Our intention is to study of infectious diseases in neotropical wildlife, with an ecological analysis from an interdisciplinary approach to generate data that favor the conservation of Neotropical environments.

Andrea Chaves

I have been an investigator and lecturer member at the School of Biology of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), and member of the Graduate Educational System of the School of Biology of the UCR. In addition, I was faculty member and co-founder of the Masters Graduate Program for Conservation Medicine at the National Regional University of Costa Rica. I am currently working evaluating the occurrence and frequency of infections and co-infections of vector borne diseases in domestic and wild mammals on the western border between Mexico and the United States, and determining the relationship between the structure of host communities, and vectors with the occurrence of the infection.

My investigations are focused on wildlife diseases and disease ecology, combining molecular, social and environmental analysis to understand the dynamics of infectious agents in animal wildlife. My primary focus is on emerging and reemerging diseases of international importance and/or zoonotic character that principally affect minority social populations. My research also attempts to relate the dynamics behind the increase in vulnerable wild populations, infectious agents and human activities in different natural and altered environments. Currently I am president and founding partner of the AWA Science & Conservation Association for Costa Rica. I founded together with other Costa Rican researchers an association in Costa Rica. Through this non-profit organization, I can fulfill my personal commitment to contribute my skills to the training of young people with interests in conservation and ecology of diseases, and develop programs that integrate society and science to resolve challenges in the mesoamerican region related to the environment and conservation.

Paloma Alcázar

I’m a peruvian wildlife veterinarian passionate for nature, and for the understanding of the human relationships with it. Following the dream of being a veterinarian and using my career and skills for working towards wildlife conservation.

I have followed studies on conservation medicine and wildlife health, and participated on several research and conservation projects on free ranging wildlife. Member of the Center for Ornitology and Biodiversity, director of the Proyecto Huangana, a research focused on the study of agents with the potential to threaten whitelipped-peccary populations in the Peruvian Amazon, Co-Founder and Vicepresident of Awá Science & Conservation, where direct the Costarrican urban avian ecology project.

Colaborating with different conservation projects close to local communities, have gave me the chance of learning the importance of understanding the perspeceptions that drive attitudes towards wildlife on different escenarios; and the enormous opportunity to learn from people at native communities about the respect, values and traditional uses that outline the relationships between humans and their environment.

In Awá, I’m interested in studying the effects of urbanization and changes in land use on the health of wildlife populations; the development of initiatives to prevent the transmission of diseases between humans, domestic and wild animals; creating a plataform to integrate students on research initiatives, and for sharing scientific information with general public on a friendly manner.

I enjoy teaching and sharing experiences with students and colleagues, and promote them to start a carrear related to wildlife conservation. Believe on the importance of considering human related aspects to pursue real conservation, as well as the importance to share scientific information, and the whys and hows of the projects to people that may benefit from conservation initiatives and to general public on a participatory way.

Additional Information

Facebook: @AwaConservation

Web page:

Project Backers

  • 28Backers
  • 31%Funded
  • $1,369Total Donations
  • $48.89Average Donation
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