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Wildlife Watch: White-Faced Capuchin
The white-faced capuchin is a medium sized primate with a white or sometimes yellowish head neck and lower shoulders and a black body and tail. Occasionally, the face may be bright yellow, reddish or any other color depending on the color of the flowers and pollen that the monkey may have been feeding on.
White-faced capuchins exhibit a lot of dexterity in climbing and jumping but also in opening zippers, Velcro fasteners, etc., and in some areas, such as Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park, any day pack, cameras, sun glasses and countless other items are vulnerable to being stolen by this species of monkey. While leading IE’s Costa Rica tours, I’ve watched capuchins open many bags, grab whatever is most vulnerable and scamper up the nearest tree to inspect their bounty!
White-faced monkeys have a very long prehensile tail which aids them in reaching fruits and birds nest that may otherwise be out of reach for an animal weighing up to eight pounds. On a trip to Manuel Antonio, many years ago, I observed a female white-faced capuchin with a youngster capture can kill a blunt-headed tree snake (Imantoides). The snake must not have been a delicacy as the monkey tasted it then presented it to her well grown baby. The youngster also did not appear to enjoy the taste and over the next 10 minutes about eight other members of the troop came over to inspect and taste the snake. All members of the troop showed the same, almost disgust, taste of the snake and eventually the dead snake was left dangling from a branch over the trail.
Whenever these monkeys are near, there is usually much noise as the troop stays in communication with members. Little is left “uninspected” as the troop moves through the forest. Feeding on insects, flowers, pollen, fruits, small reptiles, bird’s eggs and nestlings allows for this species to live in a wide variety of habitats. I have observed them often in mangrove swamps, thorn forest habitats of Guanacaste, in the Talamanca Mountains of Monteverde and the Caribbean lowlands of Tortuguero. They are equally comfortable foraging on the ground as they are in the canopy and in Mangrove areas I have observed white-faced capuchins feeding on fiddler crabs where they stand on the exposed roots of mangroves and reach down to pluck unsuspecting crabs from the mud. No matter where white-faced are found they are a delight to observe and a patient observer may be treated to antics far beyond ones scope of imagination!
Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.