It was during a visit to check a Black-and-chestnut Eagle chick that Luis and fellow Keeper of the Wild Santiago discovered a troop of 18 Woolly Monkeys. There were many juveniles in the group, a clear sign that Fundación EcoMinga‘s efforts to protect this species are working.
The monkeys are thought to be Silvery Woolly Monkeys (Lagothrix poeppigii), which occur in Amazonian Ecuador south of the Rio Napo. However, the IUCN Red Data Book lists this species as occurring below 1,600-1,800 metres, while the monkeys spotted inhabit an area that can reach elevations of at least 2,400 metres.
There is some informal discussion among Ecuadorian primatologists about the identity of this highland form, which in Ecuador is only found in a few places in the east central Andes.
As well as providing a food source for big cats and predatory birds such as the Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Woolly Monkeys are hunted by humans to eat, as well as for the illegal pet trade. Many are killed every year to feed guests during local indigenous fiestas.
Río Zuñac’s population of Woolly Monkeys is one of the very few completely safe ones, which is good news for the babies being carried by virtually all of the adult female monkeys in the video.
Lou Jost, founder of EcoMinga said about the footage: “I am surprised at how relaxed the monkeys look. They were so relaxed that Luis and Santiago climbed into the trees with them to get better video! I’m not sure which behaviour surprises me the most in this encounter, our guards’ or the monkeys’. It is amazing that they were able to do this, and that the monkeys let them.”
Forests in the Sky
WLT is raising money to protect Woolly Monkeys and other species in Ecuador during Big Match Fortnight in October 2015. The appeal target is £500,000 and funds will be used to purchase and protect habitat between Llanganates and Sangay National Parks in Eastern Ecuador.
During the first two weeks of October, donations to WLT’s Forests in the Sky Appeal will be matched pound for pound with funds pledged in advance by a small group of very generous donors.
For more about the Woolly Monkeys, including more excellent video footage, visit the blog of Lou Jost, EcoMinga founder: