South America Living

Monkeying Around in IguazĂș

This is a short little photo essay about the adorable capuchin monkeys in Iguazu Falls National Park.

I ran into them on my second morning visit to the park. It was pretty early. The park had just opened and it was super quiet on the short trail from the parking lot to the falls…. when suddenly I heard a cacophony of sounds and rustling in the jungle brush. I looked up — and was entertained by a troupe of capuchin monkeys out and about for a morning jaunt. It actually seemed like they were posing for me:


A few facts:
Capuchin monkeys are little compared to other primates. They can reach 12 to 22 inches in length and weigh between 3 and 9 pounds. They have a prehensile tail that is the same length as their body. Capuchin monkeys got their name because they look like tiny Spanish Capuchin monks with their white faces and dark brown robes and hoods on their heads. They are omnivores. The majority of their diet consists of fruit, leaves, seeds, berries, flowers and buds. They also eat insects, spiders, oysters, birds, small mammals and eggs.


Capuchin monkeys are highly intelligent animals that use different kind of tools (sticks, branches, stones) to open shells, nuts and hard seeds. They spend most of their life in the treetops, where they can find food and avoid predators. Their main predators are boa constrictors, jaguars, hawks and eagles. The only one of these species I saw during my visit to the park was a few hawks. Capuchin monkeys use a special type of warning call (sharp whistling) to alarm members of their group in the case of danger. A “Purr” sound is produced when monkeys greet each other. They are territorial animals. Depending on the availability of food, the territory of a Capuchin usually ranges from 80 to 212 acres.


Capuchin monkeys live in groups composed of 10 to 20 animals of both sexes. A Dominant male is the leader of the group. The leader needs to defend his territory and to protect members of the group from predators and other capuchin monkeys. On the other hand, the leader is the only one that mates and he always eats first. Although capuchin monkeys do not have a specific mating season, most babies are born at the end of the dry season and at the beginning of the rainy season (from December to April). Males will urinate on their hands and cover their body with urine to attract females. Pregnancy lasts 157 to 167 days and ends with a single baby at a time. Only the mother takes care of the baby. Youngsters leave their natal group as soon as they reach sexual maturity (as soon as 4 years for females, 8 for males).


The lifespan of the capuchin monkey is 50 years in captivity. Adorable, aren’t they? And quite mischievous too. Remember…be a conscientious tourist. Don’t feed the animals. Don’t try to engage with them. Take only pictures…leave only footprints.

And as always….Buen Viaje!

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