Kristel De Vleeschouwer

Project Director BioBrasil & Bahian Lion Tamarin Conservation Initiative

Research themes:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Primate Ecology and Behaviour


Project BioBrasil is a conservation research project studying golden-headed lion tamarins in Bahia (Brazil), with the overall objective of conducting fundamental and applied conservation research that can guide conservation actions towards saving the species in the wild. The Project’s activities include 1) a scientific programme studying the effects of habitat modification on the species‘ survival, behaviour, demography and ecology and 2) a community programme encouraging dissemination of research results to local communities living within the project's action area and working towards the involvement and sensitization of these communities for environment-related issues.

As Project Director, I am responsible for strategic planning of the Project’s goals and activities and overseeing its implementation, through management of an in-country team of mostly Brazilian researchers and co-workers, and networking with both academic and non-academic partner institutions, in Brazil and internationally.

Extra activities

  • Core Member of the Conservation Planning Committee within The GHLT Conservation Network (Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins), working towards the development and implementation of a conservation action plan for Golden-headed Lion Tamarins (financed by Antwerp ZOO).
  • Associated Researcher of the Bicho-do-Mato Research Institute (Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil)
  • Collaborator of the Postgraduate Program in Ecology and Conservation of Biodiversity, State University of Santa Cruz (Ilhéus, Brazil)
  • Postdoc collaborator of Department of Biology, University of Antwerp

Research Interests

My research focuses on the impact of habitat modification (degradation and fragmentation) on primate populations, including demographic, behavioural and ecological responses to changing environmental conditions, and their impact on the species’ long term survival. I study golden-headed lion tamarins, endangered primates endemic to the Atlantic Forest of South-Bahia, and threatened by the impact of continued degradation and fragmentation of their natural habitat. Research questions that I address include:

  • How do golden-headed lion tamarins cope with altered habitat conditions (degradation, resource availability and scarcity) as a result of human-induced changes in their natural environment?
  • What type of ecological challenges do individuals and groups encounter in small forest fragments?
  • Which ecological and social factors determine permeability of the matrix between fragments, and through this dispersal and mobility of GHLTs across the landscape?
  • Do populations change genetically and/or demographically as a result of altered environmental conditions?
  • Which factors directly and indirectly affect the fitness, reproduction and viability of GHLT groups in fragments (resource availability, hunting, climate change, composition of disperser assembly, etc.)?

Brief Biography

After graduating as a biologist from the University of Antwerp in 1993, I obtained my PhD through the same institution in May 2000. I have been affiliated to Antwerp ZOO and Planckendael ZOO as a researcher since 1992, and have been involved in conservation-directed research on golden-headed lion tamarins (GHLTs) since 1995. My doctoral thesis addressed the fundamental biology of golden-headed lion tamarins and an evaluation of contraceptive methods used in captivity, and was directly linked to the needs of the species’ conservation breeding programme. While working as a postdoctoral researcher, I also provided assistance to the International Studbook keeper, and scientific background for our zoos educational programmes using GHLTs as focal species.

In September 2002, I started up Project BioBrasil, a conservation research project in Southern-Bahia, with the objective to investigate the ecology and behaviour of the species in degraded and fragmented areas. The Project’s ultimate goal is to answer fundamental questions on the ecological flexibility of species in response to forest fragmentation and disturbance, and provide basic information essential for the development of a conservation management and research plan in collaboration with local and international partners. After years of focusing mainly on scientific research, I am now increasingly working towards elaborating plans and strategies that build on the research results obtained in the past years to develop science-driven conservation actions. Thus, in addition to supervising research projects seeking to address important research priorities for conservation, I am also planning and elaborating projects that are of particular relevance to the conservation of GHLTs and their landscape, and working with local and international partners to ensure their implementation.

Key Publications

Moraes AM, Grativol AD, De Vleeschouwer KM, Ruiz-Miranda CR, Raboy BE, Oliveira LC, Dietz JM, Galbusera PHA (2018) Population Genetic Structure of an Endangered Endemic Primate (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) in a Highly Fragmented Atlantic Coastal Rain Forest. Folia Primatol 2018;89:365–381.

Catenacci LS, Ferreira M, Martins LC, De Vleeschouwer KM , Cassano CR, Oliveira LC, Canale G, Deem S, Tello JS, Parker P, Vasconcelos PFC, Travassos da Rosa ES (2018). Surveillance of Arboviruses in Primates and Sloths in the Atlantic Forest, Bahia, Brazil. EcoHealth, Aug 16. doi: 10.1007/s10393-018-1361-2. [Epub ahead of print]

Castilho LC, De Vleeschouwer K, Milner-Gulland EJ & Schiavetti A (2018) Attitudes and Behaviors of Rural Residents Toward Different Motivations for Hunting and Deforestation in Protected Areas of the Northeastern Atlantic Forest, Brazil. Tropical Conservation Science. 11, p. 1-14.

Castilho LC, De Vleeschouwer KM, Milner-Gulland EJ & Schiavetti A (2017) Hunting of mammal species in Protected Areas of the Southern Bahian Atlantic Forest, Brazil. Oryx p 1-11. Oryx, 1-11. doi:10.1017/S0030605317001247

De Vleeschouwer KM & Oliveira LC (2017) Report on the presence of a group of golden-headed lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysomelas), an endangered primate species in a rubber plantation in southern Bahia, Brazil. Primate Biology 4: 61-67.

Guy C, Cassano CR, Cazarré L, De Vleeschouwer K, Kierulff MCM, Neves LG, Oliveira LC, Tardio BMR, Zeigler SL, Raboy BE (2016) Evaluating landscape suitability for Golden-headed lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) and Wied’s black tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii) in the Bahian Atlantic Forest. Tropical Conservation Science 9(2): 735-757.

Almeida JMR, De Vleeschouwer KM, Reis PP, Grelle CEV & Oliveira LC (2016) Do Habitat Use and Interspecific Association Reflect Predation Risk for the Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas)? International Journal of Primatology 36(6): 1198-1215. (DOI: 10.1007/s10764-015-9885-6).

Catenacci LS, De Vleeschouwer KM, Pessoa M & Nogueira-Filho SLG(2016) Diet and feeding behavior of Leontopithecus chrysomelas (Callitrichidae) in degraded areas of the Atlantic Forest of South-Bahia, Brazil. International Journal of Primatology (DOI: 10.1007/s10764-016-9889-x).

Catenacci LS, Colosio AC, Oliveira LC, De Vleeschouwer KM, Munhoz AD, Deem SL, Pinto JMS (in press) Occurrence of Prosthenorchiselegans (Diesing, 1861) Travassos, 1915 in free-living primates from the Atlantic Forest of the Southern of Bahia, Brazil. Journal of Wildlife Diseases (DOI: 10.7589/2015-06-163).

Zeigler, S.L., De Vleeschouwer K.M. and Raboy, B.E. (2013) Assessing extinction risk in small metapopulations of golden-headed lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysomelas). Biotropica 45(4): 528-535(DOI: 10.1111/btp.12037).

Pessoa MS, De Vleeschouwer KM, Talora DC, Rocha L & Amorim AM (2012) Reproductive phenology of Miconia mirabilis (Melastomataceae) within three distinct physiognomies of Atlantic Forest, Bahia, Brazil. Biota Neotropica 12(2): 49-56.

Fontoura T, Cazetta E, Nascimento W, Catenacci L, De Vleeschouwer K & Raboy BE (2010) Frugivory on the bromeliad species Aechmea depressa L.B. Smith (Bromeliaceae) from northeastern Brazil: the prominent role taken by a small forest primate? Biota Neotropica 10(4): 351-354.

Catenacci LS, De Vleeschouwer KM & Nogueiro-Filho SLG. (2009) Seed dispersal by Leontopithecus chrysomelas (Primates, Callitrichidae) in Southern Bahian Atlantic Forest, Brazil. Biotropica 41(6): 744–750.

Books or book chapters

De Vleeschouwer KM & Raboy BE (2013) Multi-level and multi-disciplinary approaches to understanding endangered primates in complex landscapes: Golden-headed lion tamarins in Southern Bahia, Brazil. In: Primates in Fragments: Complexity and Resilience. Edited by L. Marsh and C. Chapman. Karger

Pessoa M., De Vleeschouwer KM, Amorim, AM & Talora DC (2011) Calendário fenológico. Uma ferramenta para auxiliar no cultivo de espécies arbóreas nativas da floresta Atlântica do Sul da Bahia. Instituto Cabruca. Editus, Ilheus, Bahia.

Organization of Scientific Events and workshops

De Vleeschouwer K, Oliveira L, Zeigler S, Raboy B(2011) Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin Research Symposium:“Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin Research in 21st Century: Recent Advances and Potential Areas of Future Research” Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz December 7 and 8, 2011. [Symposium Report: De Vleeschouwer K, Oliveira L, Raboy B, Raghunathan N & Zeigler S. Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin Research in 21st Century: Recent Advances and Potential Areas of Future Research.]

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