Yellow-tailed woolly monkey

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Yellow-tailed woolly monkey[1]
Cola amarilla.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Atelidae
Genus: Oreonax
Thomas, 1927
Species: O. flavicauda
Binomial name
Oreonax flavicauda
(Humboldt, 1812)
Oreonax flavicauda distribution.svg
Geographic range

Lagothrix flavicauda Humboldt, 1812 Lagothrix hendeei Thomas, 1927

The yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) is a New World monkey endemic to Peru. It is a rare primate species found only in the Peruvian Andes, in the departments of Amazonas and San Martin, as well as bordering areas of La Libertad, Huánuco and Loreto. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey was at first under the Lagothrix genera along with other woolly monkeys, but due to debatable primary sources, they have been placed under the Oreonax genera. Oreonax has been proposed to be a subgenus of Lagothrix but others have acknowledged it to be a full genus. A recent extensive study proves that the yellow-tailed woolly monkey may indeed be in the Lagothrix genera.[3]

Discovery and rediscovery[edit]

The species was first described by Alexander von Humboldt in 1812 under the name Simia flavicauda, based on a skin found 10 years earlier, used by a local man as a horse saddle. Humboldt had never seen a live animal of this species nor a preserved specimen, and believed it belonged to the genus Alouatta. For over 100 years, the species was reported on only a few isolated occasions, so was thought to be extinct.

In 1926, three specimens were collected in San Martin, which were then brought to the Museum of Natural History. It was originally believed that the three specimens were of a new species, but further evidence made it clear that these specimens were of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey.[4]

In 1974, a group of scientists, led by Russell Mittermeier, and funded by WWF, found a young yellow-tailed woolly monkey which was kept as a pet in the city of Pedro Ruiz Gallo, Amazonas.[5] The rediscovery attracted the attention of national and international press, as well as conservation organizations that saw the need to know quickly the status of this species.

In the summer of 2004, scientists searched for yellow-tailed woolly monkeys in a remote area of San Martin where the forest is tropical, humid and quite mountainous. The threatened forest area due to haphazard tree cutting was believed to have at least a minor population of the species, and was studied along with two other minute areas of Peru.[4]

The loss of habitat due to the cutting down of trees in the distinct environment of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey could prove problematic for the species as a whole. The introduction of farm plots in regions where this organism can be sustained is drastically impacting the yellow-tailed woolly monkey’s ability to avoid extinction. The farmers of Peru are afraid of losing their farmland to conservation efforts of the species. Farmers said that they did not hunt the monkeys but that the land is necessary for growing coffee and raising cattle. The balance between avoiding the extinction of the species and maintaining the livelihood of the farmers of Peru is a major issue in the battle for conservation efforts of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey.[4]


The yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) is one of the rarest Neotropical primates and is one of Peru's largest endemic mammals. Adult head and body lengths can range from 51.3 to 53.5 cm with tails even longer than the body, up to 63 cm (25 in). The average weight is 8 kg in adults, however some males have been seen reaching up to 11.5 kg. Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkeys are similar in size to the common woolly monkey, also known as the genus Lagothrix. They live in large social groups (approximately 23 individuals) made up of both male and females. They have low reproductive rates and long inter-birth intervals, which adds to their vulnerability for extinction. They are known to express aggressive behaviors upon initial encounters such as branch shaking, “mooning” of the scrotal tuft, and short barking calls. The yellow-tailed woolly monkeys fur is longer and denser than other woolly monkeys; an adaptation to its cold montane forest habitat. The monkeys color is deep mahogany and copper with a whitish patch on its snout extending from the chin between its eyes. Its fur gets darker towards its upper body, making its head seem almost black. It has a powerful prehensile tail, with a hairless patch on its underside and a yellowish pelage on the last third of the tail giving this species its name. This coloration of the tail is not seen in infants and juveniles. The powerful tail is capable of supporting the animal's entire body weight while feeding or just hanging around; it also uses its tail to help locomote through the canopy. The monkey is also known for its long yellowish pubic hair tuft. It has the ability to leap 15 m (49.2 ft).[6]

Habitat and distribution[edit]

The yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) is one of the least known of the primate species. It is also one of the largest neotropical primates. This means that these primates are found in areas constituting the tropical new world biogeographic region. They are regularly found in the tropical Andes. Their habitat is characterized as rough terrain. This consists of steep mountain sides and deep river gorges, with canopy height of 20–25 meters. Cloud forest is a term used to often identify the habitat of the Yellow-Tailed Woolly monkey, the term is used because the forests are in fairly high altitudes and often have cloud coverage near or in them. Like most primates, the Yellow-Tailed monkey has low birth rates. The last estimated population count was less than 250 individuals. It is important to note that the current habitat of the yellow tailed monkey is fragmented. Research into the habitat of the Yellow-Tailed Woolly monkey has shown that deforestation has resulted in fragmented areas of monkey. This means that the populations of Yellow-Tailed monkeys are spread out. This can hinder reproduction as it limits an already limited population. The Yellow-Tailed monkey has never been subject to a full census so exact numbers vary. A study was done to exam the population however the terrain and fragmented populations made this difficult.[7]

A study has shown ecology and behavior of the primates. It has been observed that the yellow Tailed Woolly monkeys travel in packs. The diet of the yellow-Tailed monkey primarily consists of leaves and fruits.[8]

The yellow-tailed woolly monkey lives in the montane cloud forests of the Peruvian Andes at elevations of 1,500–2,700 m (4,900–8,900 ft) above sea level in the departments of Amazonas and San Martin, as well as bordering areas of La Libertad, Huanuco and Loreto. Its habitat is characterized by steep gorges and ravines. The original extent of its habitat is estimated to be around 11,000 km2 (4,200 sq mi),[9] but recent estimates put the remaining habitat at between 6,000 and 7,000 km2 (2,300 and 2,700 sq mi).[10]

Diet and natural history[edit]

Its diet is primarily frugivorous, but leaves, flowers, insects and other invertebrates are also eaten. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is arboreal and diurnal. It has a multiple-male group social system and a polygamous mating system. The species has a variety of vocalisations, including a loud "puppy-like" bark which it uses as a territorial or alarm call.

Yellow tailed woolly monkeys participate in geophagy, the consumption of soil. Geophagy is a rare biological behavior but the species benefits from this tendency since it allows for the intake of minerals and the detoxification of the intestinal region of parasites and other diseases. This species tends to suffer from an iron deficient diet. Their consumption of soil allows them to intake iron that they do not get from their regular diet.[11]


The inaccessibility of its habitat protected the species until the 1950s. However, the construction of new roads, habitat loss and fragmentation from agriculture, logging and cattle ranching, and subsistence hunting, together with the monkey's naturally low population densities, slow maturation, low reproductive rate, have led to a predicted decline of at least 80% over the next three generations. This and its restricted geographic distribution have led to this species' current critically endangered status.[8]

Conservation work started soon after the species was rediscovered in the mid-1970s.[9][12] This pioneering work by the Peruvian NGO APECO[13] led to the creation of three protected areas, Rio Abiseo National Park, Alto Mayo Protected Forest and Cordillera de Colán National Sanctuary. From the mid-1980s until recently, little more conservation or research efforts were made on the species. Starting in 2007, though, British NGO Neotropical Primate Conservation has been running conservation initiatives for the species throughout its range.[14][15][16]

The species is considered one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates".[17]

Habitat loss by deforestation is the biggest threat to the endangerment of yellow-tailed woolly monkeys. The Lima-Tarapoto highway which runs through the regions of San Martin and Amazonas has caused for the immigration of people from coastal and high mountain regions leading to over population. Due to the negligence of the regional government of Shipasbamba, Amazonas to the accept requests for conservation efforts, local lands have been the victims of slash and burn agriculture by local farmers to support the growing demand of local agricultural crops as well as to support the increase in population size. With the deforestation and increased population, the monkeys have had their habitual range reduced which increases their risk of extinction. Conservation efforts led by ASPROCOT have been made recently to help protect the endangered monkeys by turning to alternative forms of agriculture in order to preserve the remnants of the Amazonas forests that are still left. However, a lack of funding has slowed down the conservation process.[8]

Several communities in Peru have made conservation efforts to preserve the yellow-tailed woolly monkeys through various ways. Community based conservation efforts have been made in preserving the monkeys, such as in Los Chilchos valley, where the project is directed by The Apenheul Primate Conservation Trust. Efforts include preventing further immigration into areas home to the monkeys and beginning ecosystem protection initiatives. The British NGO Neotropical Primate Conservation has begun using newly constructed roads in La Esperanza to access areas which are now being used to develop eco-tourism initiatives to build awareness about the endangered monkey population and its habitat. Building awareness of the monkeys has helped local people understand the importance in preserving the monkeys as well as the fact that the monkeys can be used as a valuable tourist attraction that can start reforestation.[18]


  1. ^ Groves, C.P. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 152. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Cornejo, F.; Rylands, A. B.; Mittermeier, R. A. & Heymann, E. (2008). "Oreonax flavicauda". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 19 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Matthews L & Rosenberger A (2008). "Tavon Combinations, Parsimony Analysis (PAUP*), and the Taxonomy of the Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey, Lagothrix flavicauda". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 137: 245–255. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20859. 
  4. ^ a b c DeLuycer A (2007). "Notes on the Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) and Its Status in the Protected Forest of Alto Mayo, Northerm Peru": 41–47. 
  5. ^ Mittermeier, R.A., Macedo-Ruiz, H. de, Luscombe, B.A.y Cassidy, J. (1977) Rediscovery and conservation of the Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda).
  6. ^ Gron, KJ. (30 Sep 2010). "Primate Factsheets: Yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology". Retrieved 15 Apr 2015. 
  7. ^ Shanee S, Shanee N & Maldonado A (2011). "Activity budget and behavioural patterns of free-ranging yellow-tailed woolly monkeys Oreonax flavicauda (Mammalia: Primates), at La Esperanza, northeastern Peru". Contributions to Zoology. 1: 269–277. 
  8. ^ a b c Shanee S, Shanee N & Maldonado AM (2007). "Distribution and conservation status of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey Oreonax flavicauda in Amazonas and San Martín, Perú". Neotropical Primates. 14: 115–119. 
  9. ^ a b Leo Luna M (1982). Estudio Preliminar Sobre la Biología y Ecológica del Mono Choro de Cola Amarilla Lagothrix flavicauda (Humboldt, 1812) (Master thesis). Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Lima. 
  10. ^ Buckingham F & Shaneee S (2009). "Conservation priorities for the Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda): a GIS risk assessment and gap análysis" (PDF). Primate Conservation (24). 
  11. ^ Ferrari S; Veiga L & Urbani Bernardo (2007). "Geophagy in New World Monkeys (Platyrrhini): Ecological and Geographic Patterns": 402–415. 
  12. ^ Leo Luna M (1987). "Primate conservation in Peru: a case study of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey". Primate Conservation (8): 122–123. 
  13. ^ "APECO". 
  14. ^ Shanee S & Shanee N (2009). "A new conservation NGO, neotropical primate conservation: Project experiences in Peru" (PDF). International NGO Journal. 4 (7): 329–332. 
  15. ^ Shanee N & Shanee S (2010). "Community Based Conservation for the Yellow Tailed Woolly Monkey, Peru" (PDF). 
  16. ^ Shanee N, Shanee S & Maldonado AM (2007). "Conservation assessment and planning for the yellow-tailed woolly monkey in Peru". Wildl. Biol. Pract. 3 (2): 73–82. doi:10.2461/wbp.2007.3.9. 
  17. ^ Mittermeier, R.A.; Wallis, J.; Rylands, A.B.; Ganzhorn, J.U.; Oates, J.F.; Williamson, E.A.; Palacios, E.; Heymann, E.W.; Kierulff, M.C.M.; Long, Y.; Supriatna, J.; Roos, C.; Walker, S.; Cortés-Ortiz, L.; Schwitzer, C., eds. (2009). "Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2008–2010" (PDF). Illustrated by S.D. Nash. Arlington, VA: IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (PSG), International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International (CI): 1–92. ISBN 978-1-934151-34-1. 
  18. ^ Shanee S, Shanee N & Maldonado AM (2007). "Conservation Assessment and Planning for the Yellow-tailed Woolly Money (Oreonax Flavicada) in Peru". Wildl. Biol. Pract/. 3.2: 73–82. doi:10.2461/wbp.2007.3.9. 

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