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Primates

Oreonax flavicauda. © Andrew Walmsley

There are 139 species of monkey in South and Central America. They are generally called Neotropical primates, meaning monkeys of the new world tropics.

Neotropical monkeys are made up of a diverse array of species from the tiny pygmy marmoset of the central Amazon (which weighs about 100 grams) to the woolly spider monkey of south eastern Brazil (which can weigh over 10 kilograms). Primates have a complex social life; some species are monogamous with up to five members of a close family living in a single group, like the titi monkeys. Some species live in groups of up to a hundred individuals like the squirrel monkeys and the red uakari. Their diet varies; monkeys eat a mixture of fruits, leaves, insects, lizards, tree gum and some species even like to eat smaller mammals and birds when they can catch them. Neotropical primates are the only monkeys that have prehensile tails which they can use as a fifth limb and hang from. 

Monkeys are very important for the health of the forests that they live in. By acting as seed dispersers for the trees and plants of the rainforest and by being both prey and predator  for many other species they help the rainforest ecosystem to continue functioning. Without monkeys rainforests cannot survive.

Cebuella pygmaea. © NPCMany primate species are facing a very real danger of extinction in the near future. The main threats to primate species are the loss of habitat through deforestation as well as hunting for the pet trade and bushmeat. These threats are caused by un-sustainable practices both locally and globally and will only worsen unless we all take action to safeguard their future.

Conservation of primates and their rainforest habitat is taking place all over the world but the destruction of the rainforests is happening more rapidly then conservationists can cope with. More and more species are endangered and being driven to extinction.

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