Context . Primates are one of the most charismatic and widely studied vertebrate groups. However, the study of new world primates in green patches within urban areas has been neglected. Such primates have been viewed as a source of human–animal conflict; however, their ecological importance to urban ecosystems and their role in human well being is poorly understood.
Aims . To increase understanding of both ecological and socioeconomical factors affecting the distribution, density and group sizes of urban marmosets in a large Brazilian city (Belo Horizonte).
Methods . A map of vegetation cover and land use was produced and employed to investigate the distribution of marmosets. An online questionnaire was extensively publicised, which permitted the public to report the occurrence or not of marmosets near their residences. For sites with low salary levels and low internet availability, face-to-face interviews were conducted. Additionally, field surveys were conducted in 120 green areas identified by spatial analysis as potential areas of occurrence. The human population density, salary levels and green areas were posteriorly correlated with marmoset distribution.
Key results . Despite the urbanisation and high human population density, green fragments within the city still housed marmoset groups. However, the presence of green areas did not always indicate primate presence. Group presence was significantly related to the size of parks or green areas and negatively related to built-up areas, and human density. Salary levels were related to more forested streets and possibly tolerance. Marmosets were classified as urban utilisers.
Conclusions . The human–wildlife conflict with marmoset species was relatively low, owing to marmoset avoidance of built-up areas. The interaction of marmoset species and city dwellers was mainly limited to borders of forest fragments and inside city parks, and appeared to be human motivated.
Implications . This study showed the importance of public involvement in wildlife studies in urban environments; clarifying the interaction between city dwellers and wild species is essential to mitigate negative interactions.