Yellow-tailed woolly monkey

Yellow-tailed woolly monkey
Yellow-tailed woolly monkey[1]
Conservation status
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)
Geographic range
  • hendeei Thomas, 1927
  • Lagothrix flavicauda

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, Huanuco and Loreto. It is currently classified in the monotypic genus Oreonax within the Atelidae family, but in the past has been classified as a member of the genus Lagothrix with the rest of the woolly monkeys.


Discovery and rediscovery

The species was first described by Alexander von Humboldt in 1812 under the name Simia flavicauda, based on the skin that had been 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 that it is a monkey belonging to the genus Alouatta. For over 100 years, the species was reported on only a few isolated occasions and therefore was thought extinct.

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.[3] 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.


The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is the largest of Peru's endemic mammals; adults can measure up to 54 cm (21 in) (Head/Body), with tails even longer than the body, up to 63 cm (25 in). The hair of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey is long and thick, an adaptation to its cold montane forest habitat. Its colour is deep mahogany, with yellow on the underside of the rear surface of the tail and a whitish patch on the muzzle. The average weight is 5.7 kg (13 lb) for females and 8.3 kg (18 lb) for males. It has a powerful prehensile tail which 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.

Habitat and distribution

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) 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] recent estimates put remaining habitat at between 6,000 and 7,000 km².[5]

Diet and natural history

Its diet is primarily frugivorous, but leaves, flowers, bugs and insects are also eaten. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is arboreal and diurnal. It has a multi-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.

Reasons for critically endangered status

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, and a restricted geographic distribution have led to this species' current critically endangered status.[2][6]


Conservation work started soon after the species re-discovery in the mid 1970's.[4][7] This pioneering work by the Peruvian NGO APECO led to the creation of three protected areas, Rio Abiseo National Park, Alto Mayo Protected Forest and Cordillera de Colan National Sanctuary. From the mid 1980's until recently little more conservation or research was made on the species. However starting in 2007, British NGO Neotropical Primate Conservation has been running conservation initiatives for the species throughout its range.[8][9][10]

The species is considered one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates."[11]


  1. ^ Groves, C. (2005). Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M, eds. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 152. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ a b Cornejo, F., Rylands, A. B., Mittermeier, R. A. & Heymann, E. (2008). Oreonax flavicauda. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 3 January 2009.
  3. ^ 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).
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Buckingham F & Shaneee S (2009). "Conservation priorities for the Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda): a GIS risk assessment and gap análysis". Primate Conservation (24). 
  6. ^ Shanee S, Shanee N & Maldonado AM (2008). "Distribution and conservation status of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey Oreonax flavicauda in Amazonas and San Martín, Perú". Neotropical Primates 14: 115–119. 
  7. ^ Leo Luna M (1987). "Primate conservation in Peru: a case study of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey". Primate Conservation (8): 122–123. 
  8. ^ Shanee S & Shanee N (2009). "A new conservation NGO, neotropical primate conservation: Project experiences in Peru". International NGO Journal 4 (7): 329–332. 
  9. ^ Shanee N & Shanee S (2010). "Community Based Conservation for the Yellow Tailed Woolly Monkey, Peru". 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Long Yongcheng, R.A.; Wallis, J.; Rylands, A.B. et al., eds (2009) (PDF). Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2008–2010. Illustrated by S.D. Nash. Arlington, VA.: IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (PSG), International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International (CI). pp. 1–92. ISBN 978-1-934151-34-1. 

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