Caquetá titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis)

Synonyms: Callicebus moloch
Spanish: Tongo
GenusCallicebus (1)
Top facts

The Caquetá titi monkey is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (1).

One of the newest primates known to science, the Caquetá titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis) is only found in the Department of Caquetá in Colombia (2). This little-known species, which was undiscovered until 2008, resembles a number of other titi monkeys, with dense, soft, reddish and greyish-brown fur (2) (3). The uppersides of the back, legs and arms are greyish-brown, while the undersides are a contrasting chestnut colour. The top of the small, rounded head is mottled orange, black and light brown, and the tail is stippled grey. Unlike some closely related species, the Caquetá titi monkey lacks white hands and feet, while a white bar on the forehead is replaced with greyish hairs (2). Titi monkeys move with a distinctive gait through the canopy, skilfully climbing through the branches on all four limbs with the long, non-prehensile tail acting as a balancing aid (3) (4). Whilst resting, titi monkeys hunch the body, hanging the tail vertically over a branch, with all four limbs tucked into the body, often with the hands folded. From this position they can use the powerful rear limbs to jump spectacular distances, grasping onto branches with leading hands (3).

Discovered as recently as 2008 and described formally in 2010, the Caquetá titi monkey is currently only known from the Department of Caquetá in Colombia, where it is found south of the Río Orteguaza to north of the Río Caquetá. This rare monkey has a range of no more than 100 square kilometres, of which it probably occupies only a tiny fraction (2).

The Caquetá titi monkey inhabits dense, low forests of small, thin, broadleaved trees and bushes of no more than 10 to 15 metres height, between 190 and 260 metres above sea level (2).

Owing to its recent discovery and rarity, almost nothing is known about the biology of the Caquetá titi monkey. However, on the few occasions that this social primate was seen in the wild, it was observed to live in small groups, averaging around four individuals, comprising a bonded adult pair and their offspring (2). Like other titi monkeys, this small family group probably defends a territory from other titis, with the male the most aggressive towards intruders, which are deterred with rapid and loud vocalisations and, on occasions, chasing (3) (4). The male also tends to lead the group while foraging, communicating to the rest of the group with a variety of vocal and visual signals (3). At night, titi monkeys sleep in carefully selected trees that offer protection from predators, often with the whole group huddled together (3). As largely arboreal primates, titi monkeys primarily feed on fruits in the tree canopy, but will also eat leaves, insects, birds’ eggs and small invertebrates, with feeding activity most intense in the early morning and late afternoon (3) (4).

Titi monkeys are monogamous and partners reinforce the pair bond by grooming and by perching side-by-side with their tails entwined. A single infant is born after a gestation period of around five to six months, and when it is not being nursed by the female, the infant is primarily cared for, played with, and carried by the adult male. Once weaned, the juvenile will stay within the family group until it reaches maturity, usually in its second year, when it leaves in search of its own mate (3) (4).     

With a total confirmed population of probably no more than 250 individuals, the Caquetá titi monkey is clinging to a precarious existence. With so few individuals remaining, extinction could be imminent for this enigmatic primate, especially as its habitat is highly fragmented by agricultural land. To move between forest patches, the Caquetá titi monkey must cross areas of grassland intersected by barbed wire fences, limiting the species’ natural movement across the landscape and making it highly vulnerable to predation and hunting. Furthermore, as none of the species’ known range occurs in protected areas, it is likely that its already reduced habitat will continue to dwindle unless major conservation measures are implemented (2).     

Colombia supports a number of rare primates, including several endemic species, yet despite its critical importance for primate conservation, there is still relatively little known about many of these species. Habitat loss is the single most important threat to Colombia’s primates and, even in protected areas, where law enforcement is often inadequate, deforestation is increasing (5). To prevent the endemic Caquetá titi monkey from becoming extinct, efforts to publicise its presence are urgently needed and measures must to be taken to afford its remaining habitat greater protection. Further surveys are also required to determine the population size, range and status of this extremely rare primate (2).

Find out more about the discovery of the Caquetá titi monkey:

More information on conservation in Colombia:

Authenticated (28/07/2010) by Thomas R. Defler, Professor Asociado, Departamento de Biología, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
  2. Defler, T.R., Bueno, M.L. and García, J. (2010) Callicebus cacquetensis: A new and critically endangered titi monkey from Southern Caquetá, Colombia. Primate Conservation, 25: 1-9.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  4. Primate Info Net (July, 2010)
  5. Stevenson, P.R., Guzmán, D.C. and Defler, T.R. (2010) Conservation of Colombian primates: an analysis of published research. Tropical Conservation Science, 3: 45-62.