Woolly monkey

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Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Atelidae
Subfamily: Atelinae
Genus: Lagothrix
Species: L. cana, L. lagotricha, L. lugens, L. poeppigii
Subspecies: L. cana cana, L. c. tschudii

Other names: L. cana: L. lagotricha cana, Geoffroy’s Peruvian woolly monkey, Geoffroy’s woolly monkey; L. c. cana: Geoffroy’s woolly monkey; mono barrigudo (Spanish); L. c. tschudii: Peruvian woolly monkey; marimono del frio, mono barrigudo, mono rosillo (Spanish); L. lagotricha: L. lagothricha, common woolly monkey, Humboldt’s woolly monkey, woolly monkey; Lagothriche de Humboldt, singe laineux (French); macaco barrigudo, mono barrigudo, mono caparro, mono lanudo, mono lanudo común (Spanish); grå ullapa, Humboldts ullapa (Swedish); L. lugens: L. lagotricha lugens, Colombian woolly monkey; mono barrigudo (Spanish); L. poeppigii; L. lagotricha poeppigii, Poeppig’s woolly monkey, red woolly monkey, silvery woolly monkey; macaco barrigudo, mono barrigudo (Spanish).

Conservation status: please search the IUCN Red List.

Life span: around 30 years
Total population: Unknown
Regions: Amazonia
Gestation: 7-7.5 months
Height: 49.8 cm (M), 49.2 cm (F)
Weight: L. lagotricha: 7.28 kg (M), 7.02 kg (F); L. cana: 9.49 kg (M), 7.65 kg (F)
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The taxonomy of the genus Lagothrix is debated. Groves (2001; 2005) recognizes two subspecies of L. cana: L. c. cana and L. c. tschudii. In addition, Groves (2001; 2005) moved the Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) to its own genus Oreonax from Lagothrix, so it is not included here as a member of the genus. Some authors disagree with this taxonomic move (Rosenberger & Matthews 2008). Groves’ arrangement is followed here but due to presumable similarities in ecology between the two genera, the reader is referred to the Oreonax factsheet(link under construction). Finally, there remains a persistent disagreement about the proper spelling of the species L. lagotricha, which is also spelled L. lagothricha (Fooden 1963; Defler 2003). Here it will be spelled L. lagotricha, but this is not to imply that this spelling is more correct.


Wooley monkey sitting in tree
L. cana

Woolly monkeys are large muscular monkeys with prehensile tails and arms about as long as their legs (Ankel-Simons 2007; Napier & Napier 1967). The tail has a pad near its end on the distal side for grip and is as long as, or longer than, the head and body combined (Fooden 1963; Ankel-Simons 2007). They possess a pseudo-opposable thumb (Ramirez 1988). In general, woolly monkey species are distinguished from one another by coloration and appearance (Fooden 1963). As a genus, Lagothrix males have a head and body length of 49.8 cm (19.6 in) while females measure 49.2 cm (19.4 in) (Fooden 1963; Rosenberger & Strier 1989).

In terms of body mass, woolly monkeys are among the largest New World monkeys, the Atelines. While muriquis (Brachyteles sp.) are often considered to be the largest of the New World monkeys, some evidence indicates that woolly monkeys can weigh just as much (Peres 1994b). However, it is important to note that woolly monkeys undergo significant changes in body mass with the seasons (Peres 1993; 1994b). L. lagotricha males average 7.28 kg (16.0 lb) while females average 7.02 kg (15.5 lb) (Smith & Jungers 1997). L. cana males weigh on average 9.49 kg (20.9 lb) and one female weighed 7.65 kg (16.9 lb) (Peres 1994a). Some recorded averages may be on the low end of true weights however, and heavier (over 10 kg (22.0 lb)) individuals are known (Peres 1994b). Woolly monkeys exhibit sexual dimorphism by body mass and males are heavier than females (Ford & Davis 1992).

As their name implies, the fur is very thick and woolly. Males and females have the same coloration (Napier & Napier 1967). Generally, woolly monkeys are pale gray or brown overall to black (Fooden 1963). L. lagotricha is predominantly pale brown with a lighter head and darker grey extremities (Fooden 1963; Groves 2001). The belly has a black area down the middle of the ventrum (Groves 2001). L. cana have more gray in their coloration, with a dark gray head and brownish extremities and with some olive green in the torso (Fooden 1963; Groves 2001). The ventrum is black-gray with some dark red (Groves 2001). L. c. tschudii are darker than L. c. cana, and have black head, extremities and tail (Groves 2001). Coloration in L. lugens is variable, but generally are gray or silvery gray with a blackish ventrum and darker extremities (Fooden 1963; Groves 2001). Some specimens are more brownish-black and some are a somewhat lighter gray (Groves 2001). L. poeppigii coloration varies as well, but the species is typically reddish or reddish-brown, with a gray tinge and with reddish or dark brown head and extremities (Fooden 1963; Groves 2001).

Woolly monkey in tree
L. peoppigii

Woolly monkeys use their prehensile tails extensively in locomotion. In particular, the tail secures the animal while it is climbing (Ankel-Simons 2007). At the Estación Biológica Caparú in eastern Colombia, five types of locomotion are used by L. lagotricha: quadrupedal walking and running, suspensory movement, climbing, leaping and rarely, bipedalism (Defler 1999). During travel, L. lagotricha use quadupedalism (41.8% of bouts), suspensory movement (8.6%), climbing (38.8%) and leaping (10.8%). During feeding, woolly monkeys use quadrupedalism (42.8% of the time), suspensory movement (7.0%), climbing (44.2%), and leaping (6.0%) (Defler 1999). Elsewhere, in northeastern Ecuador at the Yasuní National Park, L. lagotricha move through dropping and leaping (3.9%), bipedalism (0.2%), quadrupedalism (28.7%), ascending or descending (14.4%), clambering (30.1%), bridging and hoisting (10.2%), suspension (11.1%), and swaying (1.4%) (Cant et al. 2001). During suspensory movement, L. lagotricha use brachiation (58.7%), forelimb swinging (11.7%), pronograde swinging (20.2%), upside-down clambering (0.5%), upside-down quadrupedalism (1.2%) and will swing from their tails (7.8%) (Cant et al. 2003). Wild woolly monkeys are sometimes seen on the ground (Soini 1986).

In captivity, L. c. cana have lived over 29 years, L. lagotricha have lived over 30 years, L. lugens have lived 30 years, and L. poeppigii have lived 24 years (Mooney & Lee 1999; Weigl 2005). Individuals estimated at over 30 years old are recorded in wild populations (L. lagotricha) (Nishimura 2003).


Lagothrix cana | Lagothrix cana cana | Lagothrix cana tschudii | Lagothrix lagotricha | Lagothrix lugens | Lagothrix poeppigii

Woolly monkeys are found in Amazonian South America, inhabiting Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru (Fooden 1963; Ramirez 1988; Wallace & Painter 1999). According to Bodini & Péres-Hernàndez (1987) it stands to reason that woolly monkeys should be found in Venezuela, and Hernández-Camacho & Cooper (1976) report L. lugens from Venezuela near the Colombian border. The distribution of the genus extends from the Rio Negro and the Rio Tapajós in Brazil west throughout the upper Amazon basin (Defler 2004; Emmons 1997).

Among the individual species, distributions are generally not well defined (Aquino & Encarnación 1994). L. lagotricha are found in northwestern Brazil, southeastern Colombia, northeastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru. They range north of the Amazon River west of the Orinoco and Negro rivers, to the eastern slopes of the Andes, and south as far as the Aguarico and Napo Rivers (Fooden 1963; Aquino & Encarnación 1994). Within Colombia, they extend as far north as the Guaviare River and meet the southern populations of L. lugens roughly where piedmont forest meets lowland rainforest in the region (Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976). L. cana are the southeastern-most of the woolly monkey species. They range from southwestern Brazil from their easternmost occurrence at the Tapajós River, extending west to the Juruá River, and into southeastern Peru (in the Ucayali, Pasco and Junín Departments) from the Alto Purus River to Bolivia (Fooden 1963; Aquino & Encarnación 1994; Iwanaga & Ferrari 2002). A population of L. cana is recently reported from Bolivia, in the Madidi National Park (Wallace & Painter 1999).

Woolly monkey
L. lagotricha

L. poeppigii is found in western Brazil, eastern Ecuador and in northeastern Peru (http://www.redlist.org; Fooden 1963). Specifically, they are found south and east of the Amazon and Napo Rivers, east of the Andes, north of the Marañón River and south of the Marañón River, west to the Huallaga River, continuing south to the Aguaytia and Pachitea Rivers (http://www.redlist.org; Aquino & Encarnación 1994). L. lugens are found in Colombia and are reported from Venezuela, near the Colombian border (http://www.redlist.org; Fooden 1963; Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976). Within Colombia, the species extends as far north as the Guaviare River with isolated populations in the Córdoba Department and in the southeastern Bolívar Department in the northwest of the country (Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976; Defler 2004). L. lugens extend to near the Venezuelan border east of the Cordillera Oriental (Defler 2004). In the east, L. lugens meets the distribution of L. lagotricha along the lower Guayabero River (Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976).


Woolly monkeys inhabit a number of habitat types, including tropical lowland rainforest, terra firme rainforest, old-levee forest, cloud forest, low-ground forest, seasonally flooded forest, hilly forest, terrace forest, transition forest, igapó forest, creekside lowland forest and palm swamps (Kavanagh & Dresdale 1975; Soini 1986; Peres 1994a; Defler 1996a; Peres 1996; Bennett et al. 2001; Cant et al. 2001; Stevenson 2006). They prefer primary forest (Soini 1986; Stevenson 2006).

L. lugens is found up to 3000 meters (9842.5 ft) above sea level (Defler 1996b).

At a study site at Tinigua National Park, Colombia, woolly monkeys (L. lagotricha) use tropical lowland forests, including mature forest (79%), open-degraded forest (8%), flooded forest (10%), and secondary forest (4%) (Stevenson 2006). At this study site, rainfall is very seasonal, with a pronounced dry season between December and March and an average rainfall of 278.2 cm (109.5 in) during the rainy remainder of the year (Stevenson 1998; Stevenson et al. 2000; Stevenson 2006). Elsewhere, along the upper Urucu River, in Brazil at a study site of L. cana, rainfall averaged 302.8 cm (119.2 in) with a dry season between July and September (Peres 1994a; 1996).


Woolly monkeys are mostly frugivorous over the course of the year (Defler & Defler 1996; Iwanaga & Ferrari 2001; Di Fiore 2004; Stevenson 2006). Generally, western populations of woolly monkeys spend more time foraging for live prey than other populations (Di Fiore & Rodman 2001). In Tinigua National Park, Colombia, L. lugens ate ripe fruits (53%), unripe fruit and seeds (6%), flowers (2%), arthropods (25%) and other foods (1%) (Stevenson 2006). Insects, spiders, termites, vertebrates, and beehives are also consumed at this locality (Stevenson 1992). At the Yasuní National Park, Ecuador, overall yearly diet of L. poeppigii included fruit (76.7%), flowers (3.5%), leaves (7.4%), other plants (2.4%), fungi (0.2%) and animal prey (9.3%) (Di Fiore 2004). At this study site, over 200 species of plant are consumed, but 46 species make up over half of the diet (Di Fiore 2004). In southeastern Colombia, L. lagotricha eat fleshy fruits (78.9%), seeds (4.3%), leaves (11.4%), invertebrates (4.9%), flowers (0.1%), tendrils (0.1%) and bark (0.3%) (Defler & Defler 1996). Frogs were also caught and consumed (Defler & Defler 1996).

Woolly monkey
L. lugens

Along the Urucu River, Brazil, L. cana ate nearly exclusively plant material (99.9%) of over 200 species, with very small numbers of arthropods, including katydids and spiders (Peres 1994a). At this site, plant foods consumed included fruits (80.7%), flowers and nectar (3.1%), and leaves (16.2%) (Peres 1994a). While fruit is annually extremely important in the diet, during the dry season, such foods may fall to very small percentages of what is eaten, replaced by foliage, seeds, and exudates (Peres 1994a). Flowers are also consumed as an alternative to fruit in the dry season (Peres 1994a). Elsewhere, in the state of Rondônia, Brazil, 91.5% of the L. cana diet was fruit (Iwanaga & Ferrari 2001).

In southeastern Colombia, over 90% of the fruits eaten by L. lagotricha are evolutionarily adapted for dispersal by fruit-eating species (Defler & Defler 1996). This means that the plants rely on their seeds being carried in the digestive tracts of consumers and evacuated elsewhere. In fact, woolly monkeys are important and high-quality seed dispersers (Stevenson 2000).

Averaged annually, L. poeppigii spend their days eating (19.0%), foraging (17.2%), moving (34.5%), resting (23.25%), in social activity (4.7%), and in other activities (1.4%) (Di Fiore & Rodman 2001). In eastern Colombia, L. lagotricha spend their days resting (29.9%), moving (38.8%), foraging (25.8%), and in other activities (5.5%) (Defler 1995). In southeastern Colombia, L. lagotricha spent their days moving (26%), resting (35%), feeding (35%) and in social interactions (3%) (Stevenson 2006). Seasonally, moving and social interactions decrease during fruit shortage (September to December) while resting increases during that time (Stevenson et al. 1994; Stevenson 2006). With seasonal food availability, the time spend feeding does not change, although the foods do, with the species eating more unripe fruits, leaves, and flowers during times of fruit shortage (Stevenson 2006).

Daily, resting peaks around the middle of the day (Defler 1995).

Recorded woolly monkey group home ranges include 1.08-over 4.0 km² (0.42-over 1.42 mi²) (L. poeppigii), 1.69 km² (0.65 mi²) (L. lugens), 2.0-11.0 km² (0.77-4.25 mi²) (L. lagotricha), and over 10.21 km² (3.94 mi²) (L. cana) (reviewed in Di Fiore 2003; Stevenson 2006). Home ranges can overlap extensively, and exclusive areas are not defended from other groups although specific resources can be on a temporary basis (Kavanagh & Dresdale 1975; Stevenson et al. 1994; Di Fiore 2003). Average day ranges are 540-1878 m (1771.7-6161.4 ft) (L. poeppigii), 1633 m (5357.6 ft) (L. lugens) and 2280 (7480.3 ft) (L. lagotricha) (review in Di Fiore 2003). In L. poeppigii, during periods of fruit scarcity, day range does not increase (Di Fiore 2003).

Sleeping sites are found throughout the home range and many are used (Stevenson 2006). These consist of several trees around 25-35 m (82.0 ft-114.8 ft) tall, near to one another (Defler 2004).

Woolly monkeys are large. Because of their size, they may only be exposed to low levels of predation (Stevenson & Castellanos 2000). Nevertheless, eagles are said to be possible predators of woolly monkeys and smaller non-adult individuals do disappear from groups (Ramirez 1988; Defler 2004).

Due to their widespread occurrence, woolly monkeys can be found with a number of other primate species. For example, at the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve in Peru, L. lagotricha is found along with pygmy marmosets (Cebuella pygmaea), saddle-back tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis-link under construction), owl monkeys (Aotus nancymai), squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis), white-fronted capuchins (Cebus albifrons-link under construction), brown capuchins (Cebus apella), saki monkeys (Pithecia hirsute-link under construction), black spider monkeys (Ateles paniscus), and red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) (Soini 1986). L. poeppigii are sometimes found feeding and travelling with howler monkeys (Alouatta sp.-link under construction) and travelling and foraging with spider monkeys (Ateles sp.-link under construction) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sp.) (Marsh 2004).

Woolly monkeys (L. poeppigii) are also sometimes followed by double-tooth kites (Harpagus bidentatus), a bird that feeds on insects that are stirred up by the activities of woolly monkeys (Marsh 2004). Also, L. lagotricha feces are particularly important to dung beetles of the family Scarabaeidae (Castellanos et al. 1999).

Content last modified: September 30, 2010

Written by Kurt Gron.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2010 September 30. Primate Factsheets: Woolly monkey (Lagothrix) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/woolly_monkey>. Accessed 2020 July 6.

Primate Info Net (PIN) is maintained by the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with countless grants and contributions from others over time. PIN is an ever-growing community effort: if you’d like to contribute, or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


In general, woolly monkey social groups are large, averaging 44-49 (L. cana), 24-43 (L. lagotricha), 21 (L. lugens), 23 (L. poeppigii) individuals (reviewed in Di Fiore & Campbell 2007). However, groups can be larger. For example, L. cana groups of at least 62 individuals are known to exist (Peres 1996). Reproducing adults of both sexes are present in the social group (reviewed in Di Fiore & Campbell 2007).


Woolly monkey social groupings are very flexible (Di Fiore & Strier 2004). Their social system is best classified as multimale-multifemale (Di Fiore & Rodman 2001; Di Fiore 2004). Woolly monkey groups are typically found spread out in the forest, often found over several acres, but in contact through vocalizations (Nishimura 1994; Peres 1996; Di Fiore & Campbell 2007). Groups are found as a single spread out unit, in more coherent feeding groups, or may temporarily split into several “subgroups” (Ramirez 1988; Peres 1996; review in Di Fiore & Campbell 2007). However, most of the time woolly monkey groups can be considered as a single cohesive unit (Di Fiore & Campbell 2007). “Subgroups” do not normally move independent of each other. They usually move in a coordinated fashion and in contact through vocalizations, although occasionally they will split off for days at a time (Peres 1996; Di Fiore & Campbell 2007). Non-group individuals may “visit” other groups and temporary associations of more than one group are known (Nishimura 2003; Di Fiore & Campbell 2007; Di Fiore et al. 2009).

Grooming bouts in L. poeppigii last less than 5 minutes, and adult males are the most common recipients of grooming (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Agonism involves displacements, threat displays, lunges, chases, or physical contact (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Aggression and physical confrontation between males (L. lagotricha & L. poeppigii) occurs only rarely (Nishimura 1994; Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Female-female aggression is common (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). In fact, males (L. lagotricha & L. poeppigii) are not often found in close proximity to other males, and particularly avoid one another while feeding (Nishimura 1994; Stevenson 1998; Nishimura 1997; Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). However, neither sex feeds alone, and both are often found feeding with other females (Nishimura 1997). Males are dominant over others in the group, and larger males are dominant over smaller individuals (Nishimura 1994; Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005).

Affiliative behavior (L. lagotricha) is rare except between mothers and their young offspring (Nishimura 1994). Non-infantile suckling occurs in L. lagotricha, where nursing females will suckle adult males (Nishimura 1994). Playing is common, and includes chasing, wrestling, grasping, pulling, pushing and biting (Nishimura 1990a; 1990b).

There is some variation among the woolly monkeys in dispersal patterns (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Females disperse in L. lagotricha (Nishimura 1994; review in Di Fiore & Campbell 2007). However, molecular evidence (L. poeppigii) indicates that both sexes disperse (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Males are more philopatric than females although occasionally observed solitary males and bachelor groups indicate that male dispersal does occur (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005; Di Fiore & Campbell 2007; Di Fiore et al. 2009). Wild L. lagotricha females disperse at an age of around 6 years old and may associate with other groups for short periods before settling on a new group (Nishimura 1990b; 2003).


Mating in woolly monkeys is polygamous (Ramirez 1988). Females first give birth at an average age of 9 years and males are adult sized at 8 years old (Ramirez 1988; Nishimura 2003). Prior to copulation, females typically solicit males (L. poeppigii) (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Solicitation consists of a female shaking her head with an open-mouthed grin toward a male who may reciprocate (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Another behavior associated with copulation is the so-called “tooth-chatter” or “click” where both female and male woolly monkeys retract their lips and open and close their mouth (Nishimura 1988; 2003). Females also use this type of behavior to show receptivity and to solicit copulation (Nishimura 1990a).

There are no external signs of female estrus or receptivity (Nishimura 1990a). Copulation is dorso-ventral, with the female typically lying on her ventrum and is single mount (Nishimura 1988). Mating lasts around five minutes and occurs year-round (L. lagotricha & L. poeppigii) (Nishimura 1988; Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Females sometimes harass copulating pairs by standing nearby, baring their teeth, bouncing, and branch-shaking, often interrupting the copulating pair. Males generally do not harass in the same way (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Female-female mate competition may be quite high, with up to one-fifth of copulations subjected to harassment from other females (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005). Females will copulate with multiple males within the group, including subadults (Di Fiore & Fleischer 2005).

The average interbirth interval in L. lagotricha is around three years and females are sexually inactive for two years following the birth of an infant (Nishimura 2003). However, copulation may occur while females are pregnant (Nishimura 2003). While copulation occurs year round, there are seasonal patterns of births (Nishimura 2003). For example, at the Macarena-Tinigua National Park in Colombia, all births fall between July and December corresponding to the late wet season and early dry season (Nishimura 2003). Mating experiences peaks in frequency (at Macarena-Tinigua this is between December and May) that result in a birth season (Nishimura 1992; 2003).

Gestation in L. lagotricha is between 7 and 7.5 months (Williams 1967; Mack & Kafka 1978; Nishimura 2003). The reproductive cycle of L. lagotricha is 21.3 days (Begehold & Vermeer 2009).


Neonatal L. lagotricha males weigh on average 510 g (18.0 oz) and females weigh an average of 432 g (15.2 oz) (Smith & Leigh 1998). The eyes are open at birth and infants are lighter in color than adults (Williams 1967; Kavanagh & Dresdale 1975). Neonates are carried ventrally in the first or first several weeks of life, moving to the mother’s back afterwards (Kavanagh & Dresdale 1975; Mack & Kafka 1978). For the first several weeks of life, an adult male will attend to a mother and her infant, gradually ceasing doing so (Defler 2004).

In captivity, L. lagotricha infant mortality is 8.3% in the first year for live births, and 20.4% births are stillborn (Mooney & Lee 1999).

In captivity, by the sixth to eighth week of life, the infant begins to move away and off of the mother and by six months old, most travel is independent (Mack & Kafka 1978; review in Ramirez 1988). Items are first grasped in the fifth week of life and mouthing of objects starts in the seventh week of life (Mack & Kafka 1978). First solid foods are tried in the first several weeks after birth, and infants are weaned around six months of age (Defler 2004).


There are three types of vocalizations emitted by wild L. lagotricha: contact calls, alarm calls, and social interaction calls (Stevenson 1997). Contact calls are divided into two types: long-distance and medium distance calls. Two types of alarm calls are distinguished, with barking indicating predators and mild barking indicating possible, but unconfirmed threats. Social calls include agonistic, play, and grooming vocalizations. Common agonistic calls include shrieking (heard from individuals who are being attacked) and whining (emitted by juveniles being rejected by their mothers) (Stevenson 1997).

Woolly monkeys perform two types of scent-marking: chest-rubbing and anogenital rubbing (Di Fiore et al. 2006). Chest-rubbing is performed by wetting a surface with saliva and then rubbing the chest on it. Anogenital rubbing consists of the woolly monkey pulling its anogenital region along a branch while seated (Defler 2004). Chest-rubbing in captive L. lagotricha may have reproductive as well as spacing functions (White et al. 2000). In the wild, scent-marking communicates male quality or ability as well as possible reproductive functions (Di Fiore et al. 2006).

Some types of visual communication used by woolly monkeys include head shaking, hand tuffs, branch shaking displays, and teeth chattering (Defler 2004). Stressful situations sometimes cause penile erection in male woolly monkeys (Nishimura 1990b).

Content last modified: September 30, 2010

Written by Kurt Gron.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2010 September 30. Primate Factsheets: Woolly monkey (Lagothrix) Behavior . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/woolly_monkey/behav>. Accessed 2020 July 6.


For individual primate species conservation status, please search the IUCN Red List.
Also search the current scientific literature for primate conservation status (overall as well as for individual species), and visit CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Conservation information last updated in 2010 follows, for comparison:

L. cana

Almost all woolly monkeys are threatened, with only L. lagotricha having a semblance of healthy widespread populations (Defler et al. 2003). Attempts to breed woolly monkeys in captivity have not met much success as captive individuals are plagued by health problems (Ange-van Heugten et al. 2008). Slow life-history and reproductive traits also make it hard for populations of large-bodied primates like woolly monkeys to recover from threats (http://www.redlist.org; Peres 1990).


Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

As with many primates, a primary threat to woolly monkeys is the loss or degradation of their natural habitat. This includes for agricultural activities (coca plantations, small-holder agriculture, illegal farming, and crop fumigation), and mining (http://www.redlist.org; Defler 2004). As they are adapted for life in primary habitats, while a specific forest may not be completely destroyed, even low-level disturbance affects woolly monkey populations significantly (http://www.redlist.org; Defler 2004).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

Woolly monkeys are heavily hunted (often illegally) for meat and as medicine (http://www.redlist.org; Peres 1991; Defler 2004). They are particularly vulnerable to hunting due to their large size, which makes them prime targets for hunters, a problem confounded by their slow life-histories which often prevents populations from recovering (Peres 1991). At some localities hunting pressure is so high that they are locally extinct (Peres 1990; 1991). Woolly monkeys are also hunted for medicine as their fat is believed to heal certain ailments (Peres 1991). Other data is encouraging however. For example, hunting pressure is low in the Brazilian state of Rondônia (Iwanaga & Ferrari 2002).

To obtain infants as pets, the mother is sometimes shot. Once in captivity, woolly monkeys kept as pets often die due to strangulation, disease, and neglect (Defler 2004).

Threat: Human Disturbance

All populations of L. lugens are possibly threatened by human encroachment (Defler et al. 2003).





Content last modified: September 30, 2010

Written by Kurt Gron.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2010 September 30. Primate Factsheets: Woolly monkey (Lagothrix) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/woolly_monkey/cons>. Accessed 2020 July 6.


The following references were used in the writing of this factsheet. To find current references for Lagothrix, search PrimateLit.


Ange-van Heugten K, Timmer S, Jansen WL, Verstegen MWA. 2008. Nutritional and health status of woolly monkeys. Int J Primatol 29(1):183-94.

Ankel-Simons F. 2007. Primate anatomy: an introduction, third edition. San Diego: Elsevier. 724p.

Aquino R, Encarnatión F. 1994. Primates of Peru. Prim Report 40:1-127.

Begehold H, Vermeer J. 2009. Reproductive parameters of some primate species at La Vallée des singes. Int Zoo News 55(4):197-209.

Bennett CL, Leonard S, Carter S. 2001. Abundance, diversity, and patterns of distribution of primates on the Tapiche River in Amazonian Peru. Am J Primatol 54(2):119-26.

Bodini R, Péres-Hernàndez R. 1987. Distribution of the species and subspecies of cebids in Venezuela. Fieldiana Zool 39:231-44.

Cant JGH, Youlatos D, Rose MD. 2001. Locomotor behavior of Lagothrix lagothricha and Ateles belzebuth in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador: general patterns and nonsuspensory modes. J Hum Evol 41(2):141-66.

Cant JGH, Youlatos D, Rose MD. 2003. Suspensory locomotion of Lagothrix lagothricha and Ateles belzebuth in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador. J Hum Evol 44(6):685-99.

Castellanos MC, Escobar FS, Stevenson PR. 1999. Dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) attracted to woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha Humboldt) dung at Tinigua National Park, Colombia. Coleopterists Bull 53(2):155-9.

Defler TR. 1996a. Aspects of the ranging pattern in a group of wild woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagothricha). Am J Primatol 38(4):289-302.

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Content last modified: September 30, 2010


Lagothrix cana

Photo: Júlio César Bicca-Marques

Lagothrix cana
Photo: Luiz Claudio Marigo

Lagothrix lagotricha
Photo: Luiz Claudio Marigo

Lagothrix lugens
Photo: Noga Shanee
Lagothrix lugens
Photo: Noga Shanee

Lagothrix poeppigii
Photo: Noga Shanee
Lagothrix poeppigii
Photo: Noga Shanee
Lagothrix poeppigii
Photo: Roy Fontaine

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