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The Black Howler Monkey | Habitat, Feeding Habits and More
Scientific Name: Alouatta caraya
The Black Howler Monkey is the largest of the New World monkey species. Particularly native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, these highly vocal primates belong to the the family Atelidae. The Black Howler monkey is a subspecies of the Howler monkeys that are named after their loud guttural howls that they routinely let out at dawn and at dusk. Their discordant cries can be heard over five kilometers away and when hearing them for the first time, they can be really frightening.
Where does the Black Howler Monkey live?
The black howler monkeys are particularly resident to the dense tropical and semi-deciduous forests of Latin America. The black howler monkey is mostly found in the countries of the Republic of Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Belize, a country in central America. The black howler monkey moves through the dense vegetation in slow moving groups.
Appearance of the Black Howler Monkey
Described as the biggest primate in the Neotropics, the Black Howler monkey can stand at 36 inches tall. An average male black howler monkey weighs about 16 Ibls while the female weighs 12.5 Ibls. The male and female black howler monkeys differ greatly. In fact, it is only the male that is black all over-the females have a rather light golden or caramel color. Both howler monkeys have long coarse hair and tails that are as long as their bodies. Their prehensile tails are very useful for support when swinging from tree to tree. The underside of their tails are sensitive to touch and this enables the tail to feel the surface they are holding onto when swinging from tree to tree. Ever wondered why the black howler monkeys have huge and enlarged throats? All howler monkeys have this unique feature due to their very large voice boxes that enable them to produce loud howls.
Feeding Habits of the Black Howler Monkey
The black howler monkey is principally a leaf eater that also relies on a variety of flowers and fruits especially figs for its diet. Howler monkeys are specialized vegetarians and they love feeding on different succulent leaves. In fact, the black howler monkey is said to eat more leaves than any other new world monkey. They particularly enjoy the leaves of the plant species Brosimum alicastrum. The black howler monkey uses its tail to suspend while plucking and feeding on berries, fruit and leaves of trees from young branches of terminal trees.
Behavior & Lifestyle of the Black Howler Monkey
Black Howler monkeys are sociable creatures, living in large communities comprising more than 40 monkeys. However, many smaller groups of 5-10 black howler monkeys are most common. There are two kinds of black howler monkey groups- one is a group of 1-3 prominent males, a few females and their offspring. The other group dominantly consists of male bachelors. With any chance they get, the bachelor group will often fight with the prominent males and if they succeed, they take over the troop and may even kill off the young of the other males.
Known to be the loudest animals on the planet, the black howler monkeys are popularly known for emitting low-pitched guttural howls. These howls are warning calls to other howler monkeys to keep away and to alert them of their presence. Even with their loud dire howls to chase away intruders, the black howler monkeys are rather lax and do not strictly guard their territories. Another purpose of their howls is to contact and stay in touch with other members of their community. Spending 80% of their time sleeping aloft, the black howler monkeys can be called the most passive monkeys on earth.
Rarely coming down to the ground, the black howler monkey prefers to stay high up on the green treetops, munching away on the succulent leaves they are most fond of. However, they do come down once in a while to have sips of water especially in highly unlikely but possible dry conditions. Being a diurnal creature, the black howler monkey is active throughout the day. At night, it makes its nest comfortable for sleeping and arises at dawn when it joins others in a chorus of howls.
The male black howler monkey reaches sexual maturity at the age of 5 years and the female, at about 4 years. The gestation period of the black howler monkey is about 180-194 days. A female black howler monkey gives birth to single baby, that it carries under its arm when traveling. The young black howlers cling to their mothers stomach for the first months of their lives. After several days, the baby climbs onto the back of its mother and is found clinging their most of it time. After about one year, the young black howler monkey is old enough to leave its mother's back and it also starts to eat solid food. Several mothers may help take care of an infant by helping to groom and protect it from danger. Even older adult males are fond of shielding the young ones from any possible threats.
The average lifespan of the black howler monkey is 16 years in the wild. Bred in captivity, some black howlers may live up to 21 years at most.
Watch a video to hear what the black howler monkey sounds like
Threats to the Black Howler Monkey
Although the black howler monkey is nowhere near the brink of extinction, due to the rapid felling of trees to create land for industrialization, settlement and even farming, the black howler monkey is faced with potential threats. Besides that, many regions that host a number of black howler monkeys have taken to hunting these species for food, as a sport and captured to be sold illegally or for export. Various conservation programs and European zoos have managed to enable breeding programs to save the black howler monkey. Today, only a possible 100,000 black howler monkeys are left surviving in the wild.
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