Notes from Costa Rica — Monkeys

white faced capuchin in tree 2014
White-faced capuchin at rest.

During my recent trip to the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, I was completely enchanted by the abundance of wildlife, but specifically by the monkeys. I’d never observed monkeys in the wild before, and as such, felt especially giddy whenever I spotted a group in the canopy above. There are two species of monkeys that are common in that region and which I observed on several occasions —the white-faced capuchin and the howler. Howlers are the larger and more docile of the two species, and their distinctive vocalizations, which can be heard from up to three miles away, make them sound terrifying. But the significantly smaller capuchins are the more aggressive of the two and will fiercely defend their territory.

White-faced capuchin displays a threatening posture.


The photo of the capuchin above was taken as he was marching up a powerline quite aggressively, presumably to chase me off. Upon closer inspection, this monkey had a significant scar on its face across one nostril, and I found myself backing off respectfully. As I observed it from a safe distance, it continued to threaten and harass a group of howlers that were feeding nearby.

Howler monkey mother and her newborn baby.

This mother and her infant were among the group of howlers that were feeding in my vicinity when the capuchins began their invasion. She ventured out onto the powerline directly above me with her baby, her eyes trained on the capuchins across the road, as if to seek some of my protection. Or, perhaps, like every mother, she just wanted to show off her new baby.

Newborn Howler Monkey
Newborn howler monkey clings to its mom.