Black-Handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi geoffroyi)
Please join us in welcoming our newest Zoo residents! A pair of Black-Handed Spider Monkeys will now call Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo home. They both are joining us from the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, NE. The male is named Gilligan and he was born in February of 2014. The female is named TT, which is short for Tina Turner. She was born in January of 2000. The Zoo's 21st century habitat features a landscaped outdoor yard with multiple opportunities for climbing and engaging in social behaviors. The monkeys will have free choice whether to be inside or outside, and large guest viewing windows will be offered in both indoor and outdoor locations. The new habitat was once home to elephants, which were removed from the Zoo and sent to more appropriate living quarters in 1985. The habitat also once housed Capybara, Chacoan peccaries, and a visiting pair of warthogs.
The Black-Handed Spider Monkey, a type of New World monkey, is one of the largest New World monkeys. It travels throughout tree canopies using its long limbs and tail and when it is stretched out it looks like a giant spider in the trees. Their prehensile (grasping) tails are so strong it can hold the monkey’s entire weight yet so delicate it can pick up items as small as sunflower seeds.
The Black-Handed Spider Monkey may sometimes be called the “Geoffrey's Spider Monkey”. It was named after a famous French biologist in the 1800s named Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.
DESCRIPTION: Black-Handed Spider Monkeys can weigh as much as 20 pounds. Their fur color varies from light buff to reddish-brown or black, but their hands and feet are black. They have small heads with prominent muzzles that do not have fur. The face is black, and there are light markings, or ocular rings around the eyes.
Their arms, legs and tail are very long in proportion to the body length. Their bodies are usually 15 to 20 inches in length. The arms are 25% longer than the legs. Their tails can be up to three feet long and act as a fifth limb. The underside of the tail is hairless which allows it to grip branches and food. It also contains sweat glands and sensory nerve endings.
Black-Handed Spider Monkeys do not have thumbs. They have four hooked fingers allowing them excellent gripping for swinging through tree branches. They are arboreal primates meaning they live their entire lives in the tree tops and very rarely go to the ground. Their method of locomotion is called brachiation: arm over arm swinging through the branches. They have specially adapted joints for this purpose.
They are very vocal and have one of the most highly developed larynxes, giving them the ability to produce a wide range of vocalizations from bird-like calls to barking and guttural grunting. They also communicate via facial expressions, body language, and chemical signals.
They employ a unique defense mechanism against predators. They are able to throw large branches to knock a predator down.
RANGE: They can be found in forests from southern Mexico into Central America from Nicaragua into northern Costa Rica.
HABITAT: They prefer rainforests but will inhabit other types of forests if habitats are limited.
DIET: Herbivore – The bulk of their diet consists of fruits and plant materials but they will eat an egg occasionally making them an Omnivore.
FAMILY LIFE: Black-Handed Spider Monkeys are very social animals and may live in troops of 20 to 40 individuals. There is no defined breeding season. A female usually gives birth to one infant every 2 to 4 years. The mothers will carry the infants on their chests for up to two months after birth when they transition to clinging to the mother’s back. At about three months of age the infants start eating solid food but they remain with their mothers because they are too small to safely transverse in the treetops. The young remain dependent on their mothers for about 10 months.
LIFE SPAN: The average life span is 27 years in the wild and up to 40 years in human care.