The woolly monkeys

Lagothrix poeppigii (Poeppig’s woolly monkey)


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Atelidae
Subfamily: Atelinae
Genus: Lagothrix
Species: L. canaL. lagotrichaL. lugensL. poeppigii
Subspecies: L. cana canaL. c. tschudii

Woolly monkeys are large and muscular with prehensile tails and arms about as long as their legs (Ankel-Simons 2007 & Napier & Napier 1967). They have coat colour variations ranging from dark brown, red-brown, gray and olive. Like many other primate species, woolly monkeys live together in fairly large groups known as troops. The woolly monkey troops contain both males and females. The woolly monkey troop is also known to split up into smaller groups (foraging parties) when it is time to forage for food, however they can remain as one large group during travel and feeding so this is a variable behaviour. Groups can contain between 18-45 individuals and with the ability to split up into smaller groups, allows for the species to spread out further in search of food. The splitting of troops into smaller groups is a social evolutionary mechanism to combat internal competition for resources. Vocalisations are used when the group is spread out over a larger area and woolly monkeys also send olfactory messages by chest rubbing and anogenital marking. They normally greet one another through embracing or “sobbing”; sobbing occurs when a monkey lifts its forearm to cover its eyes while making a sort of “ogh-ogh” sound.

The woolly monkey (lagothrix lagothricha) is one of the largest and most beautiful of the South American primates. There are four recognised species of woolly monkey in the genus Lagothrix:

  1. mountain or long-haired woolly monkey (Lagothrix lugens)
  2. brown woolly monkey (Lagothrix poepiggii)
  3. grey woolly monkey (Lagothrix cana)
  4. brown-headed woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha).

Almost all woolly monkeys are threatened, with only L. lagotricha having a semblance of healthy widespread populations (Defler et al. 2003).  Attempts to breed woolly monkeys in captivity have not met much success as captive individuals are plagued by health problems (Ange-van Heugten et al. 2008).

Life span: around 30 years
Total population: Unknown
Regions: Amazonia
Gestation: 7-7.5 months
Height: 49.8 cm (M), 49.2 cm (F)
Weight: L. lagotricha: 7.28 kg (M), 7.02 kg (F); L. cana: 9.49 kg (M), 7.65 kg (F)

Woolly monkeys are found throughout Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru. Woolly monkeys inhabit a number of habitat types, including tropical lowland rainforest, terra firme rainforest, old-levee forest, cloud forest, low-ground forest, seasonally flooded forest, hilly forest, terrace forest, transition forest, igapó forest, creekside lowland forestand palm swamps (Kavanagh & Dresdale 1975 & Soini 1986). They prefer primary rainforest (Soini 1986; Stevenson 2006).

Woolly monkeys face a variety of threats in the wild leading to their threatened status as a result of a downward trend in population due to both hunting (Leo Luna 1987 & Shanee et al. 2007) and the loss of habitat to deforestation for agriculture (Leo Luna 1987 & Butchart et al. 1995). There is also the disgraceful trade in woolly monkeys as pets (DeLuycker 2007) which often involves the mother being shot and killed solely for the purpose of stealing the infant for sale into the pet trade.

Watch this video on “finding the yellow tailed monkey”

Please have a look at the following groups and links for more information about Woolly Monkeys:


Ange-van Heugten K, Timmer S, Jansen WL, Verstegen MWA. 2008. Nutritional and health status of woolly monkeys. Int J Primatol 29(1):183-94.

Ankel-Simons F. 2007. Primate anatomy: an introduction, third edition. San Diego: Elsevier. 724p.

Butchart SHM, Barnes R, Davies CWN, Fernanxez M, Seddon N. 1995. Observations of two threatened primates in the Peruvian Andes. Prim Conserv 16:15-9.

Defler TR. 2003. Lagothrix lagothricha or Lagothrix lagotricha: which is it? Neotrop Prim 11(2):107-8.

DeLuycker AM. 2007. Notes on the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) and its status in the protected forest of Alto Mayo, northern Peru. Prim Conserv 22:41-7

Groves, C. (2005). Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M, eds. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 151-152

Kavanagh M, Dresdale L. 1975. Observations on the woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha) in northern Colombia. Primates 16(3):285-94.

Leo Luna M. 1987. Primate conservation in Peru: a case study of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey. Prim Conserv 8:122.

Napier JR, Napier PH. 1967. A handbook of living primates: morphology, ecology and behaviour of nonhuman primates. New York: Academic Pr. 456p.

Shanee S, Shanee N, Maldonado AM. 2007. Distribution and conservation status of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda, Humboldt 1812) in Amazonas and San Martin, Peru. Neotrop Prim 14(3):115-9.

Soini P. 1986. A synecological study of a primate community in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, Peru. Primate Conservaton 7:63-71.

Stevenson PR. 2006. Activity and ranging patterns of Colombian woolly monkeys in north-western Amazonia. Primates 47(3):239-47.


About paulreynolds87

I am the Wildlife Care Manager at Ensessakotteh in Ethiopia. I completed my first degree in BSc (Hons) Wildlife Conservation with Zoo Biology and then moved on to my MSc in Habitat Management and Conservation (Ecology).
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One Response to The woolly monkeys

  1. Wow! After all I got a blog from where I be capable of actually
    get useful information concerning my study and knowledge.

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