Ecuador’s Spider Monkeys

With its abundance of natural habitats and protected areas, Ecuador is home to a number of different species of New World monkeys, including Pygmy Marmosets, Spider Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys, Woolly Monkeys and Howler Monkeys. Consisting of five families of primates, New World monkeys are found in Central and South America, while Old World monkeys are found in Africa and Asia. All New World monkeys are arboreal (meaning they live in trees) and feed on seeds, fruits and insects. As with all non-human primates, they have opposing thumbs, large brains and live in hierarchical family groups.

There are seven species of Spider Monkeys, some of which are considered to be critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) including the Brown-headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps fusciceps) found in Ecuador. With a black body and brown head, the Brown-headed Spider Monkey is a sub-species of the Black-headed Spider Monkey and is found in the subtropical forests of Imbabura Province at between 100 and 1,700 meters above sea-level.

Spider Monkeys are characterized by very long limbs and tails and are the largest of the New World monkeys. They live in family groups of up to thirty-five members, splitting up to forage for food during the day and gathering again in the evening. Research indicates that Spider Monkeys are the most intelligent of New World monkeys, using a range of sounds to communicate. They make a barking sound when threatened, and are able to make a whinnying sound similar to a horse, as well as letting out long screams.

Due to their relatively large body size, Spider Monkeys are hunted by humans as a food source. They are slow to reproduce, with females giving birth to only one offspring (on average) every three to four years. Moreover, logging and land clearing is destroying their habitat. All of these factors have resulted in a sharp decline in the Spider Monkey population, leading to it being critically endangered.