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Read About the Squirrel Monkey

The squirrel monkey is a New World Monkey that lives in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Their range extends from Costa Rica through central Brazil and Bolivia. There are numerous kinds of these small monkeys, but three are currently in danger of becoming extinct.

Squirrel monkeys are both diurnal and arboreal, but unlike other New World Monkeys, their tail is not used for climbing or grasping. Instead it is used more as a balance pole and as a tool.

They are extremely quick and agile in moving about in the trees and in trips to the forest floor and back up.

They live together in multi-male/multi-female groups with up to 500 members, though they may break up into troops of 10 to 50. They have a number of vocalizations, largely to warn about predators. They are particularly susceptible to these due to their diminutive size. Their primary enemies include large falcons, snakes and carnivorous cats.

Squirrel monkeys are omnivorous; their diet consists largely of fruits and insects, but may also include nuts, buds, eggs and small vertebrates.

In size, most squirrel monkeys grow to about 1 foot long excluding the tail, and weigh less than 2 pounds. The tail itself can measure 1 - 1.25 feet long. However, of particular interest is the fact that they have the largest brain, proportionately, of all the primates. Their brain to body mass ratio is 1:17. Humans, by comparison have a 1:35 ratio!

In appearance, the squirrel monkey has short, close fur which has an olive color on the back with a yellowish orange on the belly and extremities. Throat, face, chest and ears are typically white or light yellow, and the mouth and nose is black or gray. In some squirrel monkeys there is extra hair at the top of the head. Because of the black and white on their faces, they’ve come to be known by Germans as `skull monkeys.’

Mating in the squirrel monkey depends upon seasonal influences, but females give birth during the rainy season after a 150 -170 day gestation. Only the mothers care for the young, and depending on the type of squirrel monkey, some are weaned as early as 4 months, some as late as 18 months. Female squirrel monkeys reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age, while males take until age 5. Their life span is about 15 years in the wild and about 20 years in captivity.

Of the squirrel monkey species in danger of extinction, one is listed as endangered, another as critically endangered and the third as vulnerable. The reason they are suffering this decline is due to the destruction of their forest habitat by people. They monkeys are also often captured for use in laboratory research, and to a lesser degree for the illegal pet trade.

Read about Mr. Wiggles, the squirrel monkey residing at Popcorn Park Zoo.

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