Geoffroy’s woolly monkey (Lagothrix cana)

Also known as: Peruvian woolly monkey
Synonyms: Lagothrix lagotricha cana
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderPrimates
FamilyAtelidae
GenusLagothrix (1)
SizeMale head-body length: 46 - 65 cm (2)
Female head-body length: 46 - 58 cm (2)
Tail length: 66 - 68 cm (2)
Male weight: 9.5 kg (3)
Female weight: 7.7 kg (3)

Geoffroy’s woolly monkey is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4). Subspecies: Lagothrix cana cana is classified as Endangered (EN) and the Peruvian woolly monkey (L. c. tschudii) is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Geoffroy’s woolly monkey (Lagothrix cana) is a large, arboreal primate from the Amazon (3) (5). As its alternative common name of grey woolly monkey suggests, Geoffroy’s woolly monkey has a thick, dense, grey coat (2). The face, hands and feet are black and the inside of the arms are also dark (2). Woolly monkeys (those belonging to the genus Lagothrix) have protruding stomachs and for this reason they are known in Portuguese as ‘macaco barrigudo’, meaning big-bellied monkeys (6). Despite their large size and robust build, woolly monkeys are able to manoeuvre aptly through the trees with the help of their large prehensile tails (7). 

Geoffroy’s woolly monkey occurs in South America. Two subspecies are currently recognised: Lagothrix cana cana occurs in Brazil and Peru while Lagothrix cana tschudii occurs only in south-east Peru (1). An isolated population of Geoffroy’s woolly monkeyshas also been discovered in Bolivia (8); this population may soon be classified as another distinct subspecies as individuals in this group are much darker in colour than those in Brazil and Peru (1).

This primate is usually found in cloud forest between 1,000 and 2,500 metres above sea level, although theBolivian population have been found as low as 700 metres (8). Geoffroy’s woolly monkey prefers non-flooded areas where there is an abundance of mosses, tree ferns, bromeliads and orchids (9). 

Geoffroy’s woolly monkey spends most of its time high in the tree tops, moving through the upper canopy as it searches for fruit in the crowns of large trees (10). It is not as fast as other South American monkeys, such as the spider monkeys, and rarely leaps between trees, but it can hang suspended by only its tail if it needs to bridge a large gap (5). Although primarily a fruit eater, Geoffroy’s woolly monkey supplements this diet with young leaves and seeds during times of fruit scarcity (10).

Geoffroy’s woolly monkey lives in mixed-sex groups of 11 to 25 individuals (2) (7). The group moves together around the home range, sharing the best feeding spots with other Geoffroy’s woolly monkey groups in the area. There is little aggression between groups and they often forage close together and communicate with clucking calls. The males also make ‘neighing’ calls which can be heard up to 400 metres away (2).

Geoffroy’s woolly monkey usually lives to about 26 years old (2). The oldest males, who are also the most dominant, are very tolerant of other males in the group and allow the females to mate with more than one male (2). In primate terms, the length of mating in Geoffroy’s woolly monkey is very long, lasting an average of four minutes (2).

Geoffroy’s woolly monkey is desperately threatened by hunting (11), both for food and for the pet trade. Females with offspring are frequently targeted so that the babies may be sold into the pet trade. It has been reported that three hunters in the Western Amazon killed over 200 woolly monkeys in a little less than two years, resulting in their local extinction (11), illustrating the devastating effect that hunting may have on this species. Deforestation is also a serious problem for Geoffroy’s woolly monkey (1); forest is cleared to make way for agricultural land and, in the south of its range, as a result of mining for cassiterite (a mineral that is the chief source of tin) (11). 

Luckily, many of the areas in which Geoffroy’s woolly monkey occurs are now protected within National Parks. In Bolivia the entire known range of the Geoffroy’s woolly monkey is contained within two protected areas (1). It is also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (4).

To find out more about Geoffroy’s woolly monkey conservation projects, see:

To learn more about the conservation of primates in the Amazon see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
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  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Rowe, N. (1996) The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Pogonias Press, Rhode Island.
  3. Ford, S.M. and Davis, L.C. (1992) Systematics and body size: implications for feeding adaptations in New World monkeys. American Journal of Physical Anthropolology, 88: 415-468.
  4. CITES (October, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org/
  5. Rosenberger, A.L. and Strier, K.B. (1989) Adaptive radiation of the ateline primates. Journal of Human Evolution, 18(7): 717-750.
  6. Ange-van Heugten, K.D., Timmer, S., Jansen, W.L. and Verstegen, M.W.A. (2008) Nutritional and health status of woolly monkeys. International Journal of Primatology, 29: 183-194.
  7. Di Fiore, A. and Campbell, C.J. (2007) The atelines: variation in ecology, behavior, and social organization. In: Campbell, C.J., Fuentes, A., MacKinnon, K.C., Panger, M. and Bearder, S.K. (Eds.) Primates in Perspective. Oxford University Press, New York.
  8. Wallace, R.B. and Painter, R.L.E. (1999) A new primate record for Bolivia: an apparently isolated population of common woolly monkeys representing a southern range extension for the genus Lagothrix. Neotropical Primates, 7(4): 111-112.
  9. Peres, C.A. (1996) Use of space, foraging group size, and spatial group structure in gray woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagotricha cana): a review of the Atelinae. In: Norconk, M.A., Rosenberger, A.L. and Garber, P. (Eds) Adaptive Radiations in Neotropical Primates. Plenum Publications, New York.
  10. Peres, C.A. (1994) Diet and feeding ecology of gray woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagotricha cana) in central Amazonia: comparisons with other atelines. International Journal of Primatololgy, 15: 333-372.
  11. Peres, C.A. (1990) Effects of hunting on western Amazonian primate communities. Biological Conservation, 54(1): 47-59.