Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 79 – The Ka’apor Capuchin Monkey

Capuchin monkey

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

Endemic to Brazil, the Ka’apor Capuchin (Cebus kaapori) is a recently discovered member of the Cebidae family of monkeys. Targeted by hunters and having suffered from devastating habitat loss, the species has become one of the most threatened primates in the largest rainforest on Earth; living in a region with the highest level of deforestation and habitat degradation in the entire Brazilian Amazon. There are now very few Ka’apors left in the wild.

Capuchins Capuchin monkeys are among the most recognisable types of monkey on the planet.  These irrepressible and highly intelligent little primates have been trapped and captured for centuries, and used for man’s entertainment and amusement by organ grinders and exotic pet seekers.  Consequently, there are more Capuchin monkeys in captivity in the world than any other species.  For most, this means a life of isolation, anguish and gloom, and often they do not live long.  But, some are lucky, and happy Capuchins are known to be very talkative, incurably curious, highly intelligent and extremely mischievous.  Ka’apor Capuchins are also hunted mercilessly for bush-meat.

The Ka’apor species lacks the tuft of hair on its head which most others Capuchins have.  They have semi-prehensile tails, short fingers and opposable thumbs.  They also possess perfectly adapted large, square premolars with dense enamel to aid nut-cracking. Brown-tufted Capuchins have been observed using tools for this purpose.  Having developed an anvil system, they were able to crack open hard-shelled nuts using large rocks.  Aside from man and the apes, the Capuchins are the only other primates known to do this.

Adult coats of the Ka’apor are grey to reddish-brown on the back and outer limbs.  Heads and shoulders are creamy-white to silver-grey, withKa'apor capuchin a black triangular cap on the head, and faces are bare and pink in colour, as are the ears.  Hands and feet are blackish.  The species is sexually dimorphic and weighs an average of six and a half pounds. Adult Capuchins stand almost eighteen inches tall and have a tail which is roughly twenty inches long.

Ka’apor Capuchin monkeys are both arboreal and quadrupedal.  They can be found in the lower mid-canopy and the understorey, which they move through in on all fours using their semi-prehensile tails whilst feeding.

Communication within the species is wide and varied.  Capuchins use a whole range of vocal, olfactory and visual communications within their troops.  Social grooming is used as a form of bonding. Ka’apor capuchin monkey

Ka’apors are polygamous and occur in groups of up to fifteen individuals.  The breeding season ranges from October to February, followed by an average gestation period of one hundred and sixty days.  Females usually give birth to one baby, rarely twins, and will only birth every two to four seasons.  Infants cling to the mother’s back for the first three months.  By six months, they are becoming more independent and taking solids, and will soon be fully weaned.

The Ka’apor Capuchin was only recently elevated to species status.  It had been formerly classified as a sub-species of the wedge-capped Capuchin.

The Ka’apor Capuchin monkey is named after the Urubu-Ka’apor Indians, who live in the region where the monkey was first discovered.

The Ka’apor Capuchin, as with other species of Capuchin, is widely used in laboratory research.

Lowland Amazonian high forest
The Brazilian states of Pará and Maranhão.
What they eat
Fruits, seeds and arthropods, frogs, nestlings and even small mammals;  supplemented by stems, flowers and leaves.
Habitat loss due to logging, forest clearance for cattle ranching, and industrial agriculture, and extensive hunting for food.  The Guajá, or Awá, Indians in Maranhão, who hunt all primate species within their reserve (and, whose land and lives have also been destroyed by illegal logging) are known to keep orphaned Capuchin and other primates as pets.  These small monkeys are also collected for the international illegal pet trade.
Status: Endangered
The Ka’apor capuchin (Cebus kaapori) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1 and listed on The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012-2014.  Ka’apors are located in the protected area of the Gurupi Biological Reserve in the State of Maranhão , which was created in 1988.  More than half of the reserve’s forest has since been lost due to selective logging. This was particularly prejudicial to the species as trees which provided the fruit Ka’apors favoured, and which made up most of their diet, were lost.   The IUCN has documented  a drastic decline in numbers of at least 80% over the past three generations. 

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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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