Monkey Forest Tales: What we have learned about black-capped capuchins over the past 15 years?

Unamas - SR Enero 2012 212

This is the fifth post of a series in which the findings of this project are presented. In this post, the findings for the black-capped capuchins are described. Black-capped capuchins are the second most common primate in the study area. These monkeys are medium size and very intelligent primates inhabiting the study area.

Where do you find and how many black-capped capuchins you find in a landscape depends both on how tall the forest is and how many fruit trees you can find in a forest fragment. Where to find them also depends on the type of cover surrounding that specific forest (crops and plantations or pastures). Additionally, in fragmented landscapes where no living fences or fewer forest fragments are present will have less black-caped capuchins (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2017).


Although group sizes of black-capped capuchins in fragmented landscapes are similar to groups in continuous areas. In the fragmented landscape, we had found bigger groups (> 20 individuals, usually more than 2 groups), which seems to be seasonal. Mostly had been observed in the study area in June, rainy season, although we still don’t know the reason (Carretero-Pinzón et al unpublished data).

They can live in fragments of gallery forest, lowland forest and swamp forest (forest patches composed mainly of Mauritia flexuosa with soils of a high-water table; Carretero-Pinzon & Defler 2018). Black-capped capuchins are more commonly found in the rural landscape than urban landscapes in the Colombian Llanos. This can be related with their intelligence and ability to enter houses and steal food. In rural landscapes this primate species is sometimes considered a pest. In the study area we know they can crop-ride maize, oil palm, orange, watermelon and enters to local gardens to steal fruits such as bananas, papayas and soursop (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations, local people reports).

Black-capped capuchins use living fences as part of their home ranges, suing them to get access to other forest fragments and to find fruit and arthropods. Most of the living fences they use are more than 10 m height, although they can use wire fences without any tree cover to disperse and move from one fragment to another (Carretero-Pinzon et al 2010).

Occasionally, stablished groups spend several days in small forest fragments (< 5 ha) using fruit trees and then return to the forest fragments they usually live in. This pattern seems to be seasonal and seems to be more common during the rainy season when some small forest fragment flood (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations).

Black-capped capuchins are opportunistic hunters of bird species in the study area, predating violaceous jay (Cyanocorax violaceus). They had also been observed in the area consuming a dead female of Brumback night monkeys (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2008). Domestic dogs, tayras (Eira barbara) and crested caracaras (Caracara cheriway) have been observed attacking young capuchins in wire and living fences in the study area (Carretero-Pinzón personal observations).


Carretero-Pinzon X., Defler TR. 2018. Primates and flooded forest in the Colombian Llanos. En: Barnett AA, Matsuda I, Nowak K (eds) Primates in flooded habitats: ecology and conservation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler, C.A. McAlpine & J.R. Rhodes. 2017. The influence of landscape relative to site and patch variables on primates distrubution in Colombian Llanos. Landscape Ecology 32: 883-896.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., T.R. Defler & M. Ruíz-García. 2010. Uso de cercas vivas como corredores biológicos por primates en los Llanos Orientales. In: Primatología en Colombia: avances al principio del milenio. Pereira-Bengoa, V., Stevenson P.R., Bueno M.L. & F. Nassar-Montoya. Fundación Universitaria San Martín. Bogotá, Colombia.

Carretero-Pinzón, X., Defler, T.R. & S. Ferrari. 2008. Wild Black Capped capuchins (Cebus apella) feeding on a night monkey (Aotus brumbacki) in eastern Colombian Llanos. Neotropical Primates 15 (2): 62 – 63.

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