What kinds of monkeys live in Costa Rica?
If you find yourself visiting Costa Rica, it’s only natural that you will ask yourself the above question. I mean, who doesn’t want to see monkeys!?
Luckily, there are a few species that you should be able to find. Keep reading to learn how to identify each primate and learn some fun and interesting facts. Pictures and range maps are also included!
4 monkey species that live in Costa Rica:
#1. Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey
- Ateles geoffroyi
Also called Central American, Nicaraguan, Ornate, Black-handed, or Red Spider Monkey.
- Body length measures between 30 and 63 cm (12 and 25 in). Weighs between 6 and 9 kg (13 and 20 lb). The tail is longer than the body at between 63 and 85 cm (25 and 33.5 in).
- Coloration varies by population and subspecies. They can be light-brownish yellow, black, reddish, or black.
- The face usually has a pale mask and bare skin around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Look for Geoffroy’s Monkeys in Costa Rica in various types of forests, including rainforests, mangroves, and especially evergreen forests. These relatively large monkeys are among the most agile primates, and it’s common to see them hanging by just one of their long limbs or their incredibly strong prehensile tail. In addition to helping them climb, the tail also assists in scooping up fruit and water, acting like a fifth limb.
Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey Range Map
It’s rare to see just one Geoffroy’s Monkey, as they live in large groups that typically number between 20-40 individuals, although they do split into smaller groups during the day to forage.
Since their diet consists mainly of fruit, this species must be able to memorize and identify many different types of foods and locations. To remember all this information, spider monkeys have evolved a very intelligent brain. If fact, a 2007 study found they were the THIRD most intelligent nonhuman primate, behind only chimpanzees and orangutans, which means they are ahead of gorillas!
Unfortunately, Geoffroy’s Monkeys are listed as endangered. This is because they require large tracts of forest to thrive, so they are particularly sensitive to habitat loss and deforestation. In addition, they are also captured by humans to be sold as pets.
#2. Central American White-faced Capuchin
- Cebus imitator
Also called the Panamanian White-faced Capuchin or Panamanian White-headed Capuchin.
- Has mostly black fur, with white to yellowish fur on the neck, throat, chest, shoulders, and upper arms.
- The face is pink or a white-cream color. The black hair on their crown is a distinctive trait.
- A prehensile tail that is often held coiled, giving them the nickname “ringtail.”
The White-faced Capuchin is easily the most recognizable monkey in Costa Rica!
These primates are incredibly smart and easily trained, so it’s no surprise they have been used in many movies. You may recognize these monkeys from the Pirates of the Caribbean films or as Marcel from the series Friends. In addition to being on TV, White-faced Capuchins have been taught to perform practical tasks, such as assisting paraplegic persons with certain activities.
Central American White-faced Capuchin Range Map
In the wild, these monkeys use their intelligence by making tools! For example, they use sticks to protect themselves from snakes. Or they have been observed smashing fruit and invertebrates with rocks to help eat them. I enjoy the fact that they rub many different types of plants into their hair, which is thought to help serve as a natural insecticide against insects and ticks.
Believe it or not, White-faced Capuchins can live a LONG time. The oldest recorded individual reached the age of 54!
#3. Mantled Howler Monkey
- Alouatta palliata
- They are primarily black except for a fringe of yellow or golden brown hairs on the flanks of the body, which is how they earned the name “mantled.”
- Adult females weigh between 3.1 and 7.6 kg (6 and 16 lb), while males typically weigh between 4.5 and 9.8 kg (10 lb and 22 lb).
It’s common to both see and HEAR these monkeys in Costa Rica!
Mantled Howler Monkeys are famous for their incredibly loud calls, which are enhanced by an enlarged hyoid bone in their vocal cords. Howling allows these primates to locate each other more easily in dense forests without expending so much energy. Believe it or not, their noises can be heard from several kilometers away!
Mantled Howler Monkey Range Map
Energy conservation is important to Mantled Howler Monkeys since their diet primarily consists of leaves, which don’t provide much energy. As a result, they are much less active than other monkey species and spend roughly 75% of the day resting, in addition to sleeping all night.
Mantled Howler Monkeys are not as vulnerable to forest fragmentation as other primates. Their low-energy lifestyle means they have smaller home ranges and don’t need to travel as far as other species to forage. They can also use a wide variety of food sources, such as fruits and leaves from many different types of trees.
#4. Central American Squirrel Monkey
- Saimiri oerstedii
Also called the Red-backed Squirrel Monkey.
- A small monkey with a distinctive white and black facial mask.
- An orange back, olive shoulders, hips, tail, and white undersides. The hands and feet are also orange.
- The head has a black cap, and the tail has a black tip.
These monkeys are an endangered species in Costa Rica.
Unfortunately, less than 5,000 Central American Squirrel Monkeys are estimated to be left in the wild, down from about 200,000 in the 1970s. Deforestation, hunting, and being captured as pets have all contributed to their steep decline. Nevertheless, significant efforts are underway to preserve the remaining population in both Costa Rica and Panama.
- Do you want to look for birds, spiders, monkeys, and more in Costa Rica? Then check out the 9 BEST Birding Tour Companies in Costa Rica to schedule a trip today!
Central American Squirrel Monkey Range Map
Central American Squirrels monkeys are selective when it comes to habitat. They are only found in lowland forests along the Pacific coast and require areas that have lots of low to mid-level vegetation. They have difficulty surviving in tall, mature forests. The best places to see them are Manuel Antonio National Park and Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica and the northwestern tip of Panama.
Do you need additional help identifying monkeys in Costa Rica?
Then check out this field guide!
Mammals of Central America & Southeast Mexico | View Price HERE!
Which of these monkeys have you seen before in Costa Rica?
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