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Zoo in the Hollow

Capuchin monkey


Scientific name: Cebus spp.
Family: Cebidae
Order: Primates
Class: Mammalia
Range: Central and South America
Habitat: Rainforests and forests
Lifespan: 15 to 25 years in the wild; up to 45 years in captivity

How do they behave?
Capuchin monkeys are diurnal and arboreal. They are social animals and live in groups of up to 35 members. A group usually consists of related females, their offspring, and a couple of adult males. They will spend time each day grooming each other to build social bonds. Capuchins are territorial and maintain their territories by urine marking and physical defense against intruders. In their dense forest homes, vocal communication is a must. They will scream, chatter or bark to express warning, disturbances or their location.

What do they eat?
Capuchins have highly variable diets. They are omnivores and will eat fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, spiders, eggs, shellfish and small vertebrates. At Happy Hollow, they eat a specialized primate diet, fruits and vegetables.

How are they born?
Capuchins breed year-round. Females reach maturity by the time they are four years of age, while males are not ready to breed until eight years old. Females have a 160 to 180 day gestation period which nearly always results in a single baby. Females will produce young once every two years. The mortality rate is very high for the first two years of life. Young capuchin monkeys will cling to their mother’s chest until strong enough to cling to her back. They will eat on their own by around four months old. Males rarely participate in rearing their offspring.

How smart are they?
Capuchins are considered the most intelligent of the New World monkeys. They will collect rocks, store them, and use them as tools to open hard nuts and shellfish. These monkeys learn techniques from their parents and older members of the group, and it can take years to master these skills. In captivity, capuchins require constant enrichment to keep them mentally and physically fit.

Do monkeys make good pets?
In most states, it is illegal to privately own primates. However, even in states that do not have legal restrictions, monkeys do not make good household pets. Caring for a monkey is a huge commitment and best left to highly trained professionals. They require a high degree of care, specialized diets, extensive mental and physical stimulation, and upon reaching adulthood, monkeys naturally compete for the “alpha” position in the family and are prone to aggression. Monkeys have relatively long life spans and cannot go without care if life gets busy or when circumstances change. They also do not adapt well to new people (such as friends, significant others, and children) which can affect human relationships. In short, it’s best to enjoy monkeys in their natural habitats in the wild or at the zoo.

Six species are stable; three are critically endangered.

What do they look like?
Capuchins are lean, agile monkeys. They generally weigh two to three pounds and are 12 to 22 inches long, head to rump; their tails are about as long as their body length and are prehensile, which means they can hold on to branches and act as a fifth limb. Coloration varies by species, though their backs, arms, legs and tails are typically brown or black in color while their faces, necks, and chests are lighter in color. They have flat faces with forward facing eyes, rounded ears and opposable thumbs.