Ecuador's threatened mammals include the Critically Endangered Black-Headed Spider Monkey and Bare-Tailed Armored Tree Rat, data on which is hard to come by since their populations are rare and small in number. The Giant Otter has a good population, but their nature and behavior put them in a vulnerable position from excessive hunting and habitat loss a condition that the Ecuadorian sac-winged bat faces too. In total, Ecuador has twenty mammalian species threatened by human encroachment to the animals habitat ranges. Some of these species, such as the fox (Psudapax culpaeus) and Puma, are thought to be regionally extinct as they have not been seen in the country for almost ten years. Below are some of the critically endangered mammals in Ecuador.
Endangered Mammals Of Ecuador
Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
The Giant Otter is an endemic species of the eastern Andes Mountains in Ecuador. The otter prefers the freshwater rivers, creeks, and lakes, and occasionally can be found near agricultural canals and reservoirs. They also live in the gently sloped river banks and isolated areas with overhanging vegetation. Breeding begins in late spring and early summer. The female otter is fertile for 3 to 10 days of its 21-day estrous cycle. Mating occurs in water and a gestation period of 65 to 70 days follows. In late August to early October birth of altricial young ones takes place. The juveniles open their eyes in a month’s time after which they leave the dens with their parents. The young otters wean at 3 to 4 months and become indistinguishable and independent hunters in 9 to 10 months. Within two years they reach sexual maturity, and the life cycle starts. The species lives in social cohesive groups of 5 to 8 individuals made up of monogamous pairs and their generations of offspring. The family home has communal latrines placed on the perimeters. Although territorial, otters exhibit social behaviors including hunting, grooming, resting, and communication together. The species feeds on fish. Because of its social nature and conspicuous conduct, the otter is easy to extirpate making it vulnerable. As a result, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the mammal as endangered. Conservation efforts are rarely followed in Ecuador, but the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species confers protection to the species. Some of the approaches used to conserve the species include creating new and protected areas for the Giant Otter and promotion of riparian habitats and including them in protected areas.
Black-Headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps)
The black-headed spider monkey is a New World Monkey endemic to the north and west of the Andes in Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador. It prefers the tropical and subtropical humid forests with an altitude range of 100 to 1,700 meters above sea level. Ateles fusciceps body is black or brown with a brown head. The monkey is arboreal and diurnal. It moves from tree to tree by climbing and brachiating. Mating can last up to 3 days and sometimes female mates with several males. The gestation period lasts from 226 and 232 days after which the young ones ride on the mothers’ back for 16 weeks and weaned after 20 months. Males reach sexual maturity in 56 months and females at 51 months. The black-headed monkey is endangered as noted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Over the last 45 years, more than 80% of the population has been lost due to severe hunting pressure and human encroachment to its habitat range. The two remaining populations of the species are in the Chongon Colonche Mountain Range and the Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve and its northern surrounding forests.
Ecuadorian Sac-Winged Bat (Balantiopteryx infusca)
The Ecuadorian sac-winged bat is a species native to Ecuador and Colombia. Balantiopteryx infusca is dark in color lacking the white trim found in the Balantiopteryx plicata. It is smaller than Balantiopteryx plicata but larger than Balantiopteryx io. The bat prefers to live in places where there is plenty of light in the mouth of caves, cracks in rocks, and abandoned mines. The bat is insectivorous and lives in colonies with extremely rare cases of isolation. The primary threat facing the population of the species is deforestation which causes habitat loss. As such, the IUCN has declared the Balantiopteryx infusca as a threatened species.
Bare-Tailed Armored Tree Rat (Makalata occasius)
The Bare-Tailed Armored Tree Rat is an arboreal rodent native to the lowland tropical rainforests of the East Andes in Ecuador. It also exhibits a type locality at Gualea in Mount Pichincha at an altitudinal range of at 1,300 meters above sea level. It is a rare species known from less than ten individuals. Little is known about the behavior of this species. It resembles the other members of Echimyidae. The Makalata occasius resembles rats although it is more related to chinchillas and guinea pigs. Most members of the Echimyidae family have thick pointed hairs or spines that serve to protect them from predators. They are exclusively herbivorous threatened by conditions of high heat and aridity but prosper in areas with adequate water.
Threats from Habitat Loss and Hunting
Clearing of forests in the country is the primary threat facing these already endangered species. Most forest-dwelling mammals require dense vegetation growth and clean water in order to survive. When trees are cut, more specifically in the event of clear cutting, these animals lose their homes or become exposed to hunters hunting them for meat. The country should come up with conservative measures that seek to conserve the forest cover of the country and the water catchments areas. Breeding of threatened species in captivity can also help reduce chances of extinction.