White Faced Capuchin Monkey - Costa Rica's Wildlife Up Close and Personal

White Faced Capuchin Monkey

October 7th, 2013 by Anamaya Resort

White Faced Capuchin Monkeys in Costa Rica

Biology

Capuchin monkeys, also known as the white-faced monkeys, inhabit the wet lowland forests on Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and Panama and dense dry forest on the Pacific coast. These monkeys sport a very distinguishable appearance from other Central American primates: they have a dark colored body that has a white top chest and shoulders and a white face with a black cap on top of their scalp. They may be diurnal and arboreal and can regularly be spotted making use of their prehensile tails and strong arms and legs to swing between trees. Group size averages at 15, with one adult male heading the troop. Females have a single infant just about every one to two years, who hold on to the mother for the initial 5 or 6 months of their life.

The name “Capuchin” comes from the similarity of the head coloration of these monkeys and the hoods worn by the Spanish order of Capuchin Monks. They have an exceedingly long prehensile tail that is the same length of their body. The population of White-faced Capuchin’s has declined 43% in the past 12 years from a population count of 95,000 in 1995 to a population count of 54,000 in 2007. They are among the sharpest primates distinguished by their ability to use tools in search of food. The only other primates to use tools are chimpanzees and orangutans.

The adult white faced capuchin get a length of between 35-45cm (13.8-18in) 335, excluding tail, this species of monkey has a longer tail than his body and can a length up to 551 mm (21.7 inches). Males have larger body than females. A white-headed capuchin has larger brain than other larger monkeys. It is weighing about 79.2 gram (2.79 oz.).

They are found in several varieties of forests, evergreen forests, tropical, semi tropical, dry and humid forests, and in mangrove forest as well. However, the white faced capuchin monkeys prefer primary or secondary forests. They generally live at higher altitudes in older forests and areas with abundant water availability during the hot season. They inhabit the forest s of Costa Rica and can be spotted at most major national parks across the region.

Capuchins possess the most flexible diet of New World monkeys. Besides relaxing, the majority of their time is spent traveling and foraging beginning at dawn and moving until they stop for the evening. They look for food through the woodland floor around the cover, and also the troop can distribute far out laterally as significantly as they forage. Only when it’s accessible they’ll go to a spring or some other locations to consume drinking water. Since they are required to maintain a diverse diet, their actions strongly impact the vegetative populations within their environments. They can do that by scattering plant seeds of some species, pruning others, which stimulates branching, and eating insects which would normally harm the flora. Sometimes, their identified activities have adverse reactions. For instance, while eating the insect colonies that reside within acacia trees and shrubs, capuchins can drastically ruin the vegetation within the region. In Costa Rica, these creatures can be found at the Santa Rosa National Park, La Selva and Corcovado National Park among other places, and in the surrdouning regions – San Jose, San Vito and Monterverde.

White Face Monkey Hanging Out Capuchins are largely insectivorous, but possess a diet regime that goes extensively beyond insects: fresh fruits, blossoms, invertebrates, along with the more uncommon bird eggs, bird hatchlings, nestling squirrels, and small lizards. They will likely consume plant substances some occasions at the same time. The pests they eat include things like butterfly caterpillar, bugs, cicadas and grasshoppers, among others. These omnivores are discriminating, however. They enjoy nibbling on ripe fresh fruit, so they really first smell, gnaw, or squash it prior to ingesting it to ensure it is appropriate. With tender fresh fruit they frequently chew it, devour the fruit juice and skin, and throw out the undesirable components; of the other fruits they simply consume the seeds; and the incredibly hard variety of fresh fruits will often be pounded or mashed to make them softer.

Males forage more on the lower branches and near the ground for larger vertebrates, and the females forage in the trees for smaller vertebrates. You will often see them grooming each other looking for tics and fleas. This behaviour is typically referred to as ‘allogrooming’, which increases during the birth season/dry season when there are more tics. Their favourite intimidating postures are jumping up and down and shaking and throwing sticks. If you hear a purry kind of sound, consider this a non-threatening, friendly greeting call. Their language and body language is complex, these clever primates utilize facial expressions such as eyebrow movements and vocalizations to attract females for mating, to warn each other, or to identify group members. It is normal for them to boisterously jump up and down, smash objects against the ground and fling sticks to show their power.

The white faced capuchins typically move around and live in troops which normally comprise around 20 individual white faced capuchin members. The white faced capuchin possesses a lifespan between 15 and 20 years in the wild. In captivity however, they have has been known to survive until more than five decades. Within a white faced capuchin troop, the number of females far exceeds that of males and like many other species of sociable primates, every white faced capuchin troop normally has an alpha male member whose primary role is to breed with the female members and to safeguard the troop. The hierarchy of the group is specifically diagonal and authority over the group depends on alliances with other members of the group. Females are at a disadvantage because they are smaller in size compared to the males. Hence they make alliances with males and other females as opposed to males that do not make alliances with members of the same sex.

These monkeys are highly promiscuous maters and utilize facial expressions such as protruding lips and vocalizations to attract mates and find the group. Breeding is prevalent throughout the year, but it normally takes place at the beginning of the rainy period. Courtship is a tad too complex (not very different from us, are they?), and is initiated by the female. Females of this species form groups and stay close knit when a new group of males tries to hold the fort and get rid of the older males they generally favor and interacting with the males to keep themselves and their toddlers safe, however sometimes they will forge an allegiance with the males against intruding males.

Gestation period is approximately 150 days. The toddler is carried by the mother and other females of the group. Their growth is slower and it takes about a couple of years to get independent for a youngster. Sexual maturity can be reached at the age of 5-6 years. Gestation is about 150 days, after which one (very rarely two) young is born.

White faced capuchin troops are not thought to be intensely territorial as they spend a great deal of their time on the move. On average a white faced capuchin will travel 2 km every day but there always seems to be some conflict when faced with a different troop of white faced capuchin monkeys.

The White faced capuchin monkeys are quite popular with humans and are often kept as pets in many homes owing to their highly amiable and less temperamental disposition. It is known as the organ grinder’s best friend and it can also be trained in paraplegic patients. It is also known for its role in maintaining the ecological balance of the rain forest by dispersing pollen and the seeds of the plant.

Where To Spot Them

White Faced Monkeys are very common in Montezuma and are frequently seen at Anamaya. They often hang out during yoga practice, in the trees, staring mystified at the asanas. They have been known to go into guests’ rooms, by sliding open the windows, and then zip open a backpack and steal food. This is one of the reasons why we ask guests not to have food in their rooms. They also sometimes come into Anamaya itself to steal bananas or apples from our fruit bowl. In Montezuma town, they often hang out at the Bakery Cafe, where they sit on a sign that says “Please don’t feed the monkeys” while the tourists throw treats to them! Apparently, white faced monkeys either don’t read English or have no respect for the rules.

About 20% of Costa Rica is set aside as national parks. And in this fact lies its primary appeal. In fact, while traveling through Corcovado National Park in Southern Costa Rica you can see all four species (spider, howler, squirrel, and Capuchin) of native Costa Rican monkeys in a single region. These little creatures can be pretty energetic and fiesty and run about the canopy wilily tracking human moves to fuel their sense of mischief. The white faced Capuchin can be spotted in several national parks and rain forest reserves, such as Barra Honda National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, Corcovado National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Aviarios del Caribe, Childrens Eternal Rain Forest, and Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve.

Additional Info

Costa Rica Journeys.com – White Faced Monkeys article and description
Wikipedia – White Faced Capuchins Info
Montezumabeach.com – More Monkey Business