The White-headed Capuchin

By now most people recognize the familiar face of the White-headed Capuchin (Cebus capucinus) as having appeared in a number of movies, advertisements, and television commercials. Fans of the TV Series ‘Friends’ will recognize ‘Marcel’ and those who have seen ‘Outbreak’ will perhaps remember this friendly little chap, albeit in a less positive light.

The White-headed Capuchin is a sweet little primate belongs to the Cebidae family and is native to the forests of Central and South America. As such, it is often spotted in the national reserves in Nicaragua as well as in neighboring Costa Rica. These black and white monkeys have rather distinctive features and play an important role in the ecology and the ecosystem of the rainforests by dispersing seeds and pollen. Though they are not an endangered species, the importance of the White-headed Capuchin should not be underestimated.

Apart from benefiting their native environment, these incredibly intelligent monkeys have also proven to be an asset to paraplegic persons because they can be trained to assist their human friends in a number of different ways. These monkeys are most easily recognized by their telltale markings. Their bodies are covered in black fur while their heads, necks, and shoulders take the form of a cowl-like white or yellowish marking. Their faces are pinkish and their heads are topped with a V-shaped area of black fur.

The average adult usually measures about 435 millimeters and weighs about 3.9 kilograms. Males tend to bulk out more with age and are often visibly larger than females. These monkeys usually live in fairly large family groups or troops of as many as 20 individuals and there are always more females than there are males in each group. Even though there may be more than one male in a group, there is always one dominant male and female who control the activities of the rest of the troop. The White-headed Capuchin monkeys are mainly active by day and prefer to live in the treetops where they are safe from predators. Like most primates, they can be quite vocal but also use facial expressions and scent to communicate with other monkeys.

White-headed Capuchin are curious little creatures and are generally considered to be one of the most intelligent of the ‘New World’ monkeys, and they even rub herbs on their bodies to deter ticks. The next time you visit either for a vacation or as a member of an eco-tour in Nicaragua or Central America try keeping an eye out for the White-headed Capuchin so you may enjoy one of the world’s most fascinating primates in its natural habitat.