Monkey Spotlight: Red Uakari

By Phoebe Li

Adult red uakari sits in a tree at the L.A. Zoo's Rainforest of the Americas exhibit (Photo by Jamie Pham)

Adult red uakari sits in a tree at the L.A. Zoo’s Rainforest of the Americas exhibit (Photo by Jamie Pham)

Happy Lunar New Year! Today is the first day to celebrate the “year of the monkey”—the fire monkey, to be precise! People born in the year of this astrological sign are believed to be curious, mischievous, witty, and creative. A symbol of strength and determination, the fire monkey is associated with the color red and holds importance in Asian cultures as it signifies happiness and good luck. There’s no animal that seems more befitting of the fire monkey’s characteristics than the red uakari, with its sociable, intelligent, playful personality, and bright red face.

Although many think the uakari’s face looks sunburned, the animal’s bright red pigmentation is created by vascular capillaries under the skin of its face and bald head, which can flush even brighter when the primate is excited or irritated. Similar to those born during the Chinese zodiac monkey, the red uakari demonstrates high levels of intelligence. This species uses a large repertoire of physical behaviors, such as vocalizations, postural displays, and facial expressions to communicate and exhibit emotion.

This vibrant species resides mostly in the Amazon River Basin of western Brazil, eastern Peru, and, in some cases, southern Colombia, making its home along small rivers and lakes within permanently or seasonally flooded rainforests. One positive trait of the zodiac monkey is agility, which red uakaris have in abundance. Agility enables these primates to spend most of the day foraging in the rainforest canopy and living in the high, thin branches of trees, rather than living on the ground—even though they’re quadrupedal (able to walk on four feet).

The Los Angeles Zoo is currently the only zoo outside of South America to house this unique species, which can be seen at our Rainforest of the Americas exhibit.
Read more about the monkeys housed at the L.A. Zoo:
Monkey Spotlight: François’s Langur