By: Larry Villalobos and Autumn Rauchwerk
When a troop of squirrel monkeys passes near the station it is like watching a band of teenagers. Their antics are of course cute, and they look like they are happy and having fun. Of the four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica, squirrel monkeys are the smallest, weighing about one and a half pounds. This puts them at about the same size as a squirrel. Their fur is a rich orange color, and their faces are unbelievably expressive. These aspects make them irresistible to visitors of Piro Research Center, especially since many of them are found carrying babies on their backs at this time of year.
Squirrel monkeys live together in groups that have up to 500 members! They make vocal sounds as warnings to protect themselves from bird predators. Since they are so small, snakes also often prey on these monkeys. Squirrel monkeys themselves eat mostly fruits and insects and occasionally seeds, leaves, flowers, buds, nuts, eggs and small vertebrate animals. The mothers usually care for the young on their own, and they live to be about 15 years old.
Unfortunately, the future of these monkeys is unclear. On the Osa much of their forest habitat has been destroyed by agribusiness clearing the land to grow crops such as exotic trees, including palm and banana.
It is our job to work to protect these monkeys in order to have them here forever. One of our main projects at Osa Conservation is a reforestation project to replenish the habitat squirrel monkeys along with thousands of other organisms call home. We plant over 100 native tree species grown from hand-collected seeds, first growing young trees in our very own nursery and then planting them throughout our property. This project is carried out by land conservation staff assisted by students and volunteers in our Plant-A-Tree program. You can be responsible for the planting of your very own tree by clicking here.
We want our children and our children’s children to have the opportunity to watch squirrel monkeys scamper by, to learn about them, and to get to know these marvelous creatures.