Capuchin Monkeys are diurnal and arboreal animals. These are very intelligent monkeys that are common as pets, trained performers, and therapy animals. Capuchin Monkeys are numerous in captivity in the USA and Europe. Organ grinders have used these animals for decades.
The origin of the name comes from the appearance of a black skullcap. Capuce is a French word for a skullcap. The Capuchin Monkey's hair is very similar to the cowl or capuche worn by Franciscan monks. Capuchin Monkeys have a supple and slender body with thin limbs. The Capuchin Monkey's hand is similar to the human hand. The thumbs and big toes of the Capuchin Monkey are opposable to the other fingers and toes.
The head of the animal is round with hairs at the back darker than the rest of the coat. The long hairy tail is partly prehensile. It serves as an anchor or prop when Capuchin Monkeys travel through the trees.
Capuchin Monkeys live in low-lying forests, in primary or advanced rainforests. They are native to Southern Central America. They are found from Costa Rica to Paraguay and Trinidad. These animals have adapted to living in places populated by man. Capuchin Monkeys are tree-dwellers.
Capuchin Monkeys are considered year-round breeders. Females reach sexual maturity at four years, while males-at eight years. Females usually give birth to only one baby at a time. However, twins do sometimes occur. Capuchin Monkey females produce offspring every two years. They can produce every year in case the baby dies before the next breeding season. Young are normally born from February to May.
Young Capuchins usually stay with their group for the first four years of their life. The young Capuchins start feeding on their own when they reach the age of about four months. The mortality rate is extremely high namely at the time of the first two years of life.
Capuchin Monkeys are polygamous. They live in groups of 3 to 30 members. They are highly sociable within their group. A group can consist of 2 adult males, 4-8 adult females, 2 sub-adult males, 5-9 juveniles, and about 4-5 infant Capuchin Monkeys.
A group can move 1.5 to 3.5 km each day. Groups sometimes meet and may defend their territory by chasing each other. Adult males' job is to defend the group from predators and other monkey groups. Adult females help them participating in the chase.
Capuchin Monkeys are very vocal animals that scream, whistle and bark. In this way, they call each other in order to maintain contact and may express their dislike if someone or something disturbs them.
Capuchin Monkeys spend their free time within the group playing with each other and grooming each other.
Capuchin Monkeys feed on ripe fruit, vegetation, nuts, flowers, seeds, roots, insects, spiders, snails and small birds. They can also eat small mammals. They need a varied and healthy diet. During the season of fruit scarcity, the Capuchin Monkey tends to feed on a greater proportion of insects. Capuchins use different patterns of foraging in different seasons.
When the young are learning to feed independently, large trees are out of their reach. They wait to be carried into tall trees to grasp some fruit by experienced adults. The group of Capuchin Monkeys is likely to restrict their horizontal and vertical movements to adjust to the limited climbing skills of the young.
Importance for People
Capuchin Monkeys have the largest brains of all the New World monkeys. Due to this fact and also due to the versatility of these monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys are used to help paralyzed people. In 1979, an occupational therapist had an idea of training Capuchin Monkeys to become companions and friends for people who are quadriplegics. As monkeys have hands similar to human hands, they are able to perform some meaningful and useful actions, like serving food, opening and closing the door, turning on and off lights, retrieving objects needed, brushing hair and etc. Raised with love and attention, Capuchin Monkeys make wonderful companions for disabled people.