Friday, January 16, 2009

White-faced Capuchin monkey family

This is a white-faced Capuchin monkey family. They are not shy. On wildlife-viewing boat trips on the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park, they will actually hop on the boat and take pieces of banana out of your hand, if you offer food to them. Each time I have taken that trip, we have encountered a group of at least 10 monkeys, including several babies riding on their mother's back, as you see here. They live in groups of between 6 and 40 monkeys.

They are native only to the western hemisphere, from Central America ranging as far south as northern Argentina. Early Spanish settlers named them after the Capuchin monks of the Franciscan order because the resembled the dark robes, with only white faces exposed, of the monks.

My wife is not a fan of white-faced Capuchin monkeys, as she thinks their faces are too expressive and, at times, human-like. Visitors on the wildlife-viewing boats, especially children, delight in the contact with the monkeys. It is certainly much more thrilling to see monkeys in the wild than in a zoo, and Costa Rica is a place where one can be virtually guaranteed of seeing monkeys in the wild if visitors go to the right places. They are territorial, so the wildlife tour operators know right where to go to find them.

White-faced Capuchin monkeys are considered the most intelligent of the western hemisphere monkeys. In the wild they use tools, such as stones, to crack open nuts. They are easily trained and they were the species used by organ grinders. In modern experiments, some white-faced Capuchins raised by humans as infants have been trained to be assistants to quadriplegics and have been trained to do tasks such as opening bottles and even micro-waving food.

White-faced Capuchins, also called white-throated Capuchins, are about 46 cm (18 in.) in length, plus a tail as long as their body. The Spanish word for monkey is mono, and they are called mono carablancas. Their scientific name is cebus capucinus.


Sharon said...

This is quite a family portrait! It would be fun to see them come right up to the boat and take food from you.

Saretta said...

I'm with your wife on this monkeys, please! I have had more than one unpleasant monkey experience in my life! But, they are cute in the picture!

David -- said...

Sorry about whatever your monkey experiences were. My wife actually loves the howler monkeys. The usually stay up in the trees, are amazing to hear them roar, and you can watch them eat and jump and swing from branch to branch. They come close to town and sometimes they can be heard even in town.

She does not like the white-faced Capuchins, only. She finds their faces too expressive so it seems like they are communicating their emotions to you. When they want food, and in the places where they are used to getting hand outs from tourists, they look like they expect you to give them food. They will furrow their brow while looking to see if you are going to give them food.

I think she must think that if they look so human, they should have more humanly and refined manners.

Jarart said...

A cute family there. It's nice to see them in the wild. I always feel sad for monkeys in cages.

David -- said...

I have a photo of my mother-in-law on the boat sitting right next to one of the monkeys who is hanging on to a pole. In view of your comment for a photo of the monkey-human interaction up close, I will post it in the future, unless she objects. I think I better check with her first, as you know how some women are about their photos, and I wouldn't want to offend my mother-in-law. (In contrast, I do not mind making a fool of myself in photos, otherwise there would be very few photos of me). I'll probably wait a couple of weeks before I post the photo, in deference to my wife and to Saretta, and possibly others, who would not want to see white-faced Capuchin monkeys on consecutive days.

JM said...

This is a fantastic shot of the cara blanca family!

humanobserver said...

They look so happy !

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