On one of the islands in the central lake live a family of one of the most distinctive of South American primates, the White-faced Saki Pithecia pithecia.The local name for these monkeys sounds like they would be more at home in the Wizard of Oz – they are called flying monkeys because of their prodigious jumps (up to 10m have been recorded). In the wild they have a wide distribution through the rainforests of South America, so they are listed by the IUCN as of Least Concern. Most of its closest relatives are also in reasonably good shape, although one, the Buffy Saki Pithecia albicans, is listed as Vulnerable.
It is a few days late, but it is appropriate that Valentine’s week should feature one of the most closely affectionate of the monkeys, the Red Titi Callicebus cupreus. Bristol currently has a pair, but people often walk past their enclosure because they are also among the most secretive of monkeys. Their preferred habitat is dense tangles of vines, edge forests, bamboo groves and similar habitats, where they can go about their lives undisturbed. Unlike many other species, they avoid other primates and do not move around in mixed associations, instead pursuing their lives in small family groups of a pair plus up to three offspring.
One of the South American monkeys Bristol has been most successful with is one of the most resonant voices of the rainforest, the howler monkey. The IUCN red list has a total of thirteen different species, which are found from Central America as far south as Argentina, wherever there is suitable forest. The species we have at Bristol is more or less the only one likely to be seen outside a South American zoo, the Black and Gold Howler Alouatta caraya. They get their name from the sexual dimorphism in the species – adult males are jet black while females and juveniles are golden brown.
On one of the islands in the lake can be found our group of a very familiar, but little understood, small monkey, the South American Squirrel monkey Saimiri sciureus. Squirrel monkeys are widely spread throughout central and South American rainforests, but until recently it was thought that there were only two species, The South American S.sciureus and the Central American S.oerstedti. More recent work has elevated some subspecies to specific status, and identified other new forms, with the result that there are now considered to be at least five species, some of which themselves may contain several subspecies.