Little Forest Rascals
White-faced capuchin monkey
White-faced capuchin monkeys are proof that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Though very cute and popular the world over, these small black-and-white monkeys are in fact highly efficient predators. With their large brains and highly developed manual dexterity, white-faced capuchin monkeys use their advantages to corral prey by working individually and in groups.
These monkeys move through the forest in troops of up to 30 in search of food. Particularly in the dry season, when fruits and insects are scarce, white-faced capuchins turn their attention to other prey, including parrot chicks and even baby coatimundis (a raccoon relative). The monkeys work in tandem to hunt squirrels and have been observed by biologists using a stick to beat to death a highly venomous fer-de-lance in Manuel Antonio National Park. One monkey was seen to break off and eat an iguana’s tail, and others have been seen eating oysters at low tide in mangrove forests.
Nevertheless, white-faced capuchins feed primarily on fruit and are considered to be important in dispersing the seeds of a number of rainforest and dry forest trees. In addition, their consumption of new leaves and shoots may increase branching and, by extension, eventual fruit production in some tree species. And white-faced capuchins’ fondness for certain beetle larvae is believed to reduce destruction of the seeds on which the beetle would otherwise feed.
White-faced capuchins are abundant in lowland rainforests, tropical dry forests and even lower cloud forests throughout Costa Rica. The areas around Santa Rosa, Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio National Park are especially noteworthy for white-faced monkey sightings, with early morning and late afternoon the best times to observe them. When feeding, these monkeys rarely stay still, making them difficult to photograph. And it is wise to be careful: White-faced capuchins are adept at throwing things at any animal, human or otherwise, that they consider a threat! Pictures of white-faced monkeys and lowland wildlife
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