Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 76 – The Black-headed Spider Monkey

Black-headed spider monkey

Photographer: Peter Cook

“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught”
Baba Dioum

These elegant primates live almost exclusively in the upper-canopy and emergent trees, rarely coming down to the ground.  And, like most endangered species, they are fast losing their homes to deforestation and their lives to hunting.Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey

They live in protected parks, but the pressure on the park rangers has become so great, due to the increase in human population and activity, they are no longer equipped to deal with any conflict which arises.

The black-headed spider monkey is suffering as a result.

The species Ateles fusciceps is the largest of all New World monkeys.  The body is black or brown, with a brown head and pale rings around the forward facing eyes. The tail is prehensile and acts as a fifth limb with which to hang on to the branches and allow hands free feeding.  As with all spider monkeys, the black-headed spider monkey has disproportionately long, spindly limbs, hands like hooks and no thumbs.

The head and body length can be as much as twenty-two inches with a much longer, extremely strong, tail of thirty-four inches.  The average weight for males is almost twenty pounds and females nineteen pounds.

The black-headed spider monkey is arboreal and diurnal.  Graceful movement is by climbing and brachiation, and speeds of up toBlack-headed spider monkey  by Tambako The Jaguar thirty-four miles per hour can be reached.

Spider monkeys live in groups of up to 20-30 individuals.  However, they prefer travelling in smaller groups, so the whole troop is rarely seen together.  Leadership falls to the females when hunting for food.  They are highly intelligent primates and the various routes will be planned by the females in advance.

Black-headed spider monkey and babySpider monkeys have a lovely habit of greeting each other with a hug.  When the whole troop gets back together, they sometimes affectionately entwine tails, too.

There is no particular breeding season for spider monkeys.  The gestation period is usually up to two hundred and thirty-two days. Normally only one infant will be born with a pink face and pink ears.  It will ride on its mother’s back for the next sixteen weeks.  Sweetly, the baby will wrap its tail around its mother’s for security.  At twenty-two months the infant will be fully weaned.  By then, the infant will have developed its adult coat.  Females only give birth once every three years. 

The black-headed spider monkey, Ateles fusciceps fusciceps, is a sub-species of Geoffroy’s spider monkey.  The other sub-species is Ateles fusciceps rufiventris, which ranges from south-west Colombia to eastern Panama.

Tropical and sub-tropical forests up to seventeen hundred meters above sea level.  The species favours the emergents and the upper canopy.
The black-headed spider monkey  (a.f.f.)  occurs only in north-western Ecuador.  There have been reports of sightings in Colombia, but no evidence has ever been submitted.
What they eat
Fruit makes up the most part of the daily intake, with leaves, seeds and insects being eaten during the dry season when fruit is not so plentiful.
Severe habitat loss due to deforestation.  Excessive and illegal hunting has also caused huge losses to the population.  There has been an estimated population decline of more than 80% of the population of all black and brown-headed spider monkeys in less than fifty years.
Status: Endangered
The black-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps fusciceps),  is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 11.  There are an estimated two hundred to two hundred and fifty  Ateles fusciceps left in the wild in Ecuador.  Both sub-species live within the protected areas of Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Los Cedros Protected Forest and Awá Ethnological Reserve.  Despite the supposed safety of these national parks, illegal hunting still continues.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 25 – The Caquetá Tití Monkey

Caquetá Tití Monkey

Photograph by Thomas Defler | National Geographic.

A type of titi monkey was first spotted in 1960s, but political unrest pervaded in the southern Caquetá Province hampering any further attempts at exploration. It was not until 2008, following an expedition led by Thomas Defler [1], that the existence of the new species was confirmed – a bearded monkey, now known as the Caquetá titi – in the remote Amazon. It was promptly described.

These mysterious monkeys purr like domestic cats, and, oddly enough, are more or less the same size. They are stocky and strong, with powerful hind legs which allow them to leap incredible distances through the trees. Their coats are brown on top and reddish-chestnut underneath. They also sport a matching reddish-chestnut beard with a contrasting long, thick, pale-coloured tail. In my opinion – and, it is only my opinion – facially, they are not the prettiest of primates; but when it comes to friendship, love and care, they are phenomenally sweet.

As is typical of the titi monkeys, they mate for life. They have been observed atop of branches holding hands with their tails romantically intertwined. And, of course, they lovingly groom each other. They produce one baby a year, and although the mothers are responsible for nursing, the fathers tend to do all the other work. Clearly, a few lessons to be learned here!  Once the babies have been weaned, they will continue to stay within the family group until their second year, when they will go their own way in search of a mate. No member of the group is ever forced out and in times of danger they all stick together.

[1]Thomas Defler is a primatologist at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá

Dense tropical  low forests with broadleaved trees and shrubs,  surrounded by low swampy pastureland.
Southern Caquetá,  Colombia  (close to the borders of Peru and Ecuador).
What they eat
Principally;  fruit,  flowers,  leaves,  insects and small vertebrates
Agriculture is fragmenting their habitat at an alarming rate and confining them to certain areas by the use of barbed wire and grazed savannah.  This makes it very difficult,  and dangerous,   for them to move to new feeding grounds.  Often the land is used for cattle farming and drug cultivation.  What is left is degraded,  and the Caquetá titi  are left there to survive in small isolated groups.  This is an ongoing situation.  They are also,  sadly,  hunted for food.
Status:  Critically Endangered
The region is known for its guerilla activity,  making it sometimes difficult for conservationists to enter and observe,  so numbers have been difficult to ascertain.  It is believed that less than 250 Caquetá titi  still exist and that the species is now on the verge of extinction.   It is currently classified as Critically Endangered on the  IUCN Red List  because of  “a suspected population decline”.

“If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature.”
Ronald Wright

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