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|Common Name:||Black howler monkey||Family:||Primate|
|Latin Name:||Alouatta caraya||Diet:||Herbivore|
|Native To:||South America||Social Unit:||Group|
|IUCN Red List Status:||Least Concern|
Black howler monkeys at Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh Zoo’s group of black howler monkeys consists of Kiko, our adult male, and his son, Diego. In 2008 the group was joined by a new adult female, Meryl. She has integrated very well into the group and has since given birth to three youngsters called, Quiteri, Luna and Mossoro. The most recent, Mossoro was born in March 2012.
Kiko, our adult male, is a very important animal in the European Breeding Programme for this species. He was intercepted by customs officials as he was being illegally smuggled out of Brazil as a baby, and was fostered at Lisbon Zoo in Portugal by an adult pair of black howler monkeys who had recently lost their own infant. He then came to Edinburgh Zoo, where he has successfully fathered several infants. Because he was born in the wild, his blood-line is very important in maintaining the diversity of the captive gene pool.
Although called black howler monkeys, only the adult male is black. Females and immature males are blonde. Infants of both sexes are blonde at birth, but males change colour as they become sexually mature to their final adult colouration. This is known as sexual dimorphism, and is seen in a number of species kept at Edinburgh Zoo, including the blue-eyed black lemurs and buff-cheeked gibbons.
Where it can be found at Edinburgh Zoo
Black howler monkeys in the wild
Black howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya) are found in South America, in Brazil, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, and northern Argentina. They are active during the day and rarely come down to the ground, instead spending most of their lives high up in the trees. These monkeys have a prehensile tail which acts like a fifth limb, wrapping itself around branches to support the animal’s full weight, and allowing it to suspend from the trees in order to feed from a wider area without having to move.
Black howler monkeys are vegetarians whose diet is made up of a large percentage of leaf matter and some tropical fruits and flowers. Being a leaf-eater means that there is rarely a shortage of food for the black howler monkey, but it does have its drawbacks – leaves are very tough and difficult to digest, and they are also low in nutrition, so a lot have to be consumed to fulfil the monkey’s dietary needs. In order to conserve the little energy they attain from their food, black howler monkeys spend more than half of their day resting or sleeping, and the rest of their time is spent feeding.
Howler monkeys get their name from the loud, rumbling call they produce—it is one of the loudest made by any animal, and can be heard from over a mile away! This amazing howl is made when air is drawn in through a cavity within an enlarged hyoid bone in the monkey’s throat.
Male howler monkeys have a larger hyoid bone than females, therefore producing a much louder and more impressive howl. The howling of one troop is thought to advertise their presence and location to neighbouring troops of howler monkeys, thus avoiding the chance that they may meet up. A meeting of Howler troops could lead to competition and conflict over food sources and territory, which would use up much of their already-low energy.
Breeding programme category: ESB
IUCN Red List category: Least Concern
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