3 minute read

Howler Monkeys and Spider Monkeys: Atelidae

Colombian Woolly Monkey (lagothrix Lugens): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Colombian woolly monkeys range in color from black to blackish brown to lighter gray, with darker undersides, head, limbs, and tail. The fur is short, thick, and soft. The head is large and round, with a flat face and a snub nose. The ears are small. The body is stocky, with a protruding belly and a long, thick, muscular tail. The powerful prehensile tail can hold the large animal while suspended from a branch, as well as function as an additional hand. Woolly monkeys measure 20 to 27 inches (50.8 to 68.6 centimeters), with a tail length of 23.6 to 28.4 inches (60 to 72 centimeters). They weigh about 12 to 24 pounds (5.5 to 10.8 kilograms).

During midday, Colombian woolly monkeys rest, groom each other, and play. They greet each other by kissing on the mouth and embracing. (Illustration by Bruce Worden. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Colombian woolly monkeys are found in Colombia and Venezuela.

Diet: Colombian woolly monkeys feed mainly on fruits, supplemented with leaves, seeds, and occasional insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Colombian woolly monkeys are arboreal, sharing home ranges with other groups of their own species without hostility. They form groups of ten to forty-five individuals. Some males are dominant over other males, and all males are dominant over females, but they have a friendly relationship. They are diurnal, mostly foraging in the early morning and late afternoon, splitting into smaller subgroups when doing so. During midday, they rest, groom each other, and play. They greet each other by kissing on the mouth and embracing. Woolly monkeys travel through the forest on all fours, with some brachiation. They do not jump up but drop down to a branch by as many as 20 feet (6 meters).

Woolly monkeys have several partners, with dominant males mating with all receptive females. Females have single births every two to three years. An infant can cling to its mother's fur right away, first holding on to her stomach and later on to her back or side. Mothers carry the young for six to eight months, but nursing continues for up to twenty months. Young males remain in their birthplace, while females leave home to join other males.

Colombian woolly monkeys and people: Colombian woolly monkeys are hunted for food and trapped for the pet trade.

Conservation status: The IUCN lists the Colombian woolly monkey as Vulnerable due to habitat loss and degradation from logging and human settlement. ∎



Emmons, Louise H. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Kavanagh, Michael. A Complete Guide to Monkeys, Apes and Other Primates. New York: The Viking Press, 1983.

Kinzey, Warren G., ed. New World Primates: Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1997.

Napier, John R., and Prue H. Napier. The Natural History of the Primates. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1986.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Primates of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.


Campbell, Christina J. "Female-Directed Aggression in Free-Ranging Ateles Geoffroyi." International Journal of Primatology (April 2003): 223–237.

Wallace, Robert. "Diurnal Activity Budgets of Black Spider Monkeys, Ateles Chamek in a Southern Amazonian Tropical Forest." Neotropical Primates (December 2001): 101–107.

Web sites:

Broekema, Iris. "Natural History of the Black-Handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)." The Primate Foundation of Panama. http://www. primatesofpanama.org/academicresources/articles/spiderblack.htm (accessed on July 6, 2004).

Broekema, Iris. "Natural History of the Mantled Howler Monkey (Aloutta palliata)." The Primate Foundation of Panama. http://www.primatesofpanama.org/academicresources/articles/howler.htm (accessed on July 6, 2004).

"Spider Monkey." Honolulu Zoo. http://www.honoluluzoo.org/spider_monkey.htm (accessed on July 6, 2004).

"What is a Woolly Monkey?" The Monkey Sanctuary. http://www.ethicalworks.co.uk/monkeysanctuary/woolly.htm (accessed on July 6, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsHowler Monkeys and Spider Monkeys: Atelidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Atelids And People, Conservation Status, Venezuelan Red Howler Monkey (alouatta Seniculus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET