Scientific Name: Saimiri sciureus sciureus
Squirrel monkeys are one of few species of New World monkeys that do not have prehensile tails. Instead, they use their hands and feet to move deftly through the middle canopy, while their tails are used mainly for balance.
There are five subspecies of squirrel monkey existing in South America. These small creatures can be found throughout the canopy and occasionally roaming the forest floor. Much like the squirrels in southern California that feed on our avocados and fruits, squirrel monkeys will feed on people’s fruit trees around their habitat; for this reason, they are often considered pests by the local people.
STATUS: The Zoo’s species of squirrel monkeys is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The greatest threat to the populations of these monkeys is habitat destruction. They are also captured for the pet trade and used for medical research.
HABITAT: These monkeys inhabit the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, with the largest populations living in the Amazon basin.
DIET: Squirrel monkeys prefer to eat fruit and insects. Thanks to their small, agile bodies they are able to easily climb to the ends of branches to retrieve fruit. Occasionally these monkeys will also dine on leaves, seeds, arthropods and some small vertebrates.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: A typical squirrel monkey has short, olive-colored fur covering its body, except for a bright yellow back and appendages, a white face and ears, and a black muzzle. They do not exhibit much sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females tend to look very similar. Their slender bodies grow to be about 10 to 14 in long, while their tails can be closer to 16 in long. They weigh around two pounds with females being slightly less.
One Big, Happy Family
Squirrel monkeys tend to live in groups of 15 to 75 individuals. Sometimes several groups will join together for a period of time, creating large groups of hundreds of monkeys. Each smaller group is centered around several dominant females. Generally a female will give birth to one offspring at a time, and other females will help raise the infant. Squirrel monkeys have different vocalizations to communicate with other members of their group, including an alarm call to alert the others of a nearby predator. Cooperation within the squirrel monkey groups is important for their survival.