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The Capuchins {more Monkey Marvels}

Updated on August 8, 2015

Tufted capuchin


Introducing the Caphuchins

Capuchin monkeys belong to the Order Primates and Placed in the family Cebidae and the sub-family Caebinae and the genus Cebus {and Sapajus}

Differing from the spider monkeys {see my hub Monkey Marvels -1} of South America by the fact that the tail is completely covered with hair, and, not capable of grasping anything {prehensile}, although it may be curled around a branch.

The hands are furnished with five fingers and the arms are of moderate length. A more or less developed 'beard' adorn the face and the fur is short and thick. The capuchin's are real monkeys, that is to say, they are lively, docile, mischievous, curious and capricious animals and they were once frequently kept as pets and tame ones were regularly exported to Europe.

Some of the species are referred to as 'weeper' monkeys which was said to derive from the gentle whining voice. Yet, this voice is only heard when the animal is in good humour. The slightest excitement will produce from them ear-bursting shrieks. They live exclusively in trees where they are completely at ease. They inhabit all the larger forest regions of the southern portion of South America, in rather numerous troops.

These monkeys were once all confined to the genus Cebus. However, in 2011 it was proposed to split the capuchins into two groups, the gracile capuchins remained in the genus Cebus and the more robust capuchins were placed in the genus Sapajus.

The white headed caphuchin

This group of monkeys take their common name from an order of Capuchin friars-the cowls worn by these friars, superficially resemble the monkeys head colouration.

Probably the best known species of capuchin is Cebus capueinus the white headed capuchin, once called by the natives Cai, or Sai, which means 'dweller of the woods'. the white headed capuchin prefers forests without an understory and spends the greater part of its time among the tree tops, descending only to drink or rare terrestrial forages.

they have no permanent home, by day they roam from tree to tree, at night they sleep among the boughs. They are usually encountered in family groups of five to ten, females often more numerous than the males. Sometimes an old solitary male is encountered. The tail is often held in a coiled position earning the white headed capuchin the alternative common name of 'ring tail'.

White headed capuchin

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Historical account of the white headed capuchin

Rengger {1800s} states --" Once my attention was drawn by a few agreeable flute like sounds. Looking up I saw approaching me an old male, followed by twelve or thirteen other monkeys of both sexes. Three of the females were carrying young ones, either on their backs or under their arms. One of the monkeys caught sight of an orange tree,bearing ripe fruit, and quickly uttered a few peculiar sounds. In a few moments the entire troop was gathered around the tree, plucking and eating so rapidly that the tree was soon bare of fruit."

" Then the stronger monkeys tried to rob the weaker ones of their share of the booty, vigorously pulling their hair, the assailants making wry faces and showing their teeth in a spiteful way during the contention..Several of the party, searched a dead part of the tree, breaking off the bark and eating the insects inside."

" When their appetite was fulfilled they laid down on a horizontal branch, in the position assumed by the howlers. The young ones played around and showed themselves to be quite agile. They swing back and forth by their tails and climbed upon them as on ropes"

The young of the species were often caught and tamed. It was discovered that when the animal was older it could not get used to captivity and became sluggish, refused food and drink and within a few weeks died, according to historical records. However, records confirm that when taken young the monkey soon became attached to people, and like other species of monkeys took their food and drink readily.

The cry of the Cai changes with prevailing emotions. Studies have revealed that the most frequent sound uttered is a flute-like sound which seem to denote weariness. When desiring the sound tends to be a low groan. Embarressment is expressed by a half whistling note. When angry it cries a deep, rough voice. When frightened or in pain it shrieks, and when pleased it makes a giggling sound.

The Cai is very sensitive to cold and damp and will never go into water of its own accord. In captivity it falls victim to many diseases, especially head colds and coughs.

Tufted capuchin

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3.0 Generic license | Source

19th century Organ grinder and his monkey


The Tufted Caphuchin

The Tufted caphuchin Sapajus apella, formerly Cebus apella, is also known as the brown capuchin. The colouring of this species varies so much that it is difficult to describe accurately. The fur is glossy and some hairs stand up above the forehead and both sides of the head so as to form a ' crest' or tuft from which it takes its common name.

The face and throat are lighter in colour than the body, while the back, tail and legs merge into black. It is more powerfully built than other capuchins. The head and body length is 13-22 inches { 32-75cm} the tail a further 15-22 inches {38-56cm} and they weigh 1.9-4.8kg { 1.9-4.8lbs} The males are generally heavier than the females. They are a diurnal species.

Schomburgk, a German born explorer 1804-1865, described the life of this species--"Closely concealed behind a tree, we waited the troop of monkeys. A vanguard came first then folllowed the main body, and a quarter of an hour later the rear guard came into view. I regret to say that I precipitated this latter into disorderly flight by bursting into laughter at their peculiar antics. The weaker ones complained and whistled, and cast angry glances at the stronger, which bit and cuffed them when they were in their way"

" The young ones seemed perfectly glued to the backs of their mothers, and made the most precociously wise little faces imaginable, while the elder ones searched every little crevice on their way, for insects, with the utmost gravity. Four to five hundred monkeys might have passed through the foliage above us { they travel from tree to tree and do not seem to know any other mode of progression.}, and they made such ludicrous faces that I could not restrain myself and laughed heartily. The monkeys in the tree immediately above us stopped,as if stuck by lightening, then they gave a shriek which was re-echoed from all sides, and, redoubling their speed, the troop disappeared from view with a few mighty jumps"

This species was frequently shipped to Europe and used as the Organ grinders monkey.

There are at least six sub-species which are Sapajus apella apella

Sapajus apella fatuellus

Sapajus apella macrocephalus

Sapajus apella margaritae

Sapajus apella peruanus

Sapajus tocantinus

White fronted capuchin Celbus albifrons

This species is found in Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela,Ecuador and Peru. It is a medium sized monkey with a light brown back and a creamy white underside. Its diet consists of fruit , invertebrates and some times small vertebrates. They may be encountered in groups of 12-40 individuals.

There are at least five sub species which are Cebus albifron albifrons,

Cebus albifrons cuscinus

Cebus albifrons unicolor

Cebus kaapori

Cebus olivaceus

White fronted capuchin

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2.5 Generic license | Source

Other species--The black striped capuchin

The black striped capuchin Sapajus libidinosus of which there are four known sub species---

Sapajus libidinosus juruanus

Sapajus libidinosus libidinosus

Sapajus libidinosus pallidus

Sapajus libidinosus paraquayanus

The Black capuchin Sapajus nigritus of which there are three known sub species which are--

Sapajus nigritus cucullatus Sapajus nigritus nigritus Sapajus robustus

The Blond Capuchin Sapjus flavius was thought to be extinct , but was rediscovered in 2006. There are only 170-190 individuals remaining. They are endemic to north eastern brazil.

The Golden bellied capuchin. Sapajus xanthostemos.

Black striped capuchin mother and juvenile

3.0 Unported license
3.0 Unported license | Source

Conservation concerns

Sapajus flavius --The blond capuchin {see above} is listed as being Critically Endangered

Sapajus nigritus --The black capuchin is classed as near threatened. Due to habitat loss, hunting and the pet trade.

Many species are under threat { including us } by deforestation in the Amazon rain forests because of logging and other development. So the news that deforestation in that region has dropped to its lowest level for 24 years, according to the Brazilian Government, should be good news?

Sixty three percent of the worlds rain forests 2.4 million square miles { 6.2 million square kilometers} are in Brazil. However, Greenpeace Amazon region co-ordinator, Marcio Astrinia, said "That reducing deforestation was possible that this has proved. However, the figures are far to high for a country that does not need to destroy one single hectare of rain forest in order to develop."


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Thank you for being the first to visit and for leaving your appreciated comments. I will be over to see your hub ASAP.

      Best wishes to you.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      I never knew there was more than one capuchin! How interesting to learn of the different kinds. You're information is impeccable and contains such great background.

      It is sad to see they are endangered. I recently wrote a hub about animal extinction so I have an idea of what they face.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.


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