We monkey around in this week’s Travel Photo of the Week, a white-faced capuchin monkey in Costa Rica. These intelligent and adorable little primates were named such by European explorers as their white faces and brown bodies were reminiscent of the brown robe wearing Order of Friars Minor Capuchin commonly known as Capuchin monks. The order was founded by St. Francis of Assisi who arranged the first manger scene, developed the first stigmata wounds, and after his death was awarded the title of the Patron Saint of Animals. Today Catholic and Anglican churches hold animal blessing days on October 4th in his memory, they will even bless capuchin monkeys!
Considered to be the most intelligent of the New World monkeys and aside from apes, they are the only other primate to engage in long term tool use (see the video). They have also been taught to grasp simple concepts of money (the amazing article), unlike some people. If these cute little guys look familiar it is because of their intelligence – capuchin monkeys have been utilized by the entertainment industry for years since they are highly trainable and photogenic. From early organ grinders to modern movies they have been stealing the spotlight. Jack, the monkey from the Pirates of The Caribbean, Dexter from Night at the Museum, and Crystal from Hangover II are just some of the memorable characters played by capuchin monkeys. The director of Hangover II got himself in hot water because of a “publicity stunt” joke when he told the press that the monkey was addicted to cigarettes (article). After outcrys from PETA and other animal rights organizations he came clean that the monkey neither smoked nor did cocaine. Sharp-eyed viewers might note that the drug-dealing monkey, a “resident” of Thailand in the movie, was actually played by Crystal, of New World origin. Capuchin monkeys can be found through-out Central and northern South America, this week’s featured capuchin was encountered in Costa Rica down south in Playa Zancudo.
Think these adorable little guys would make a great pet? Think again! They require a tremendous amount of socializing and upkeep. Special diets, the potential to carry deadly diseases, and their preoccupation with throwing their own feces should be enough to deter you, but if it does not, please read this National Geographic article about the perils of primates as pets (article). Remember, if you encounter this or any other creature in the wild, keep in mind that while cute, they are wild and unpredictable animals. Avoid the temptation to alter their natural behavior. Simple things like giving them food or trying to pet them can have long term negative consequences on the individual animal and possibly the whole species.
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