Meet the Monkeys

Squirrel monkeys in Meet the Monkeys at ZSL London Zoo

Squirrel monkey at ZSL London ZooGo in with the monkeys and observe them in their natural habitat!

The enclosure covers an area of 1500m² and houses a breeding group of black-capped squirrel monkeys in a habitat designed to recreate the Bolivian rainforests as closely as possible in the centre of London.

The walk-through is open to the skies of the capital with no boundaries between the animals and our visitors!

This urban eco-safari has been designed so that it will develop and mimic the forests of Bolivia, the plants have specifically been chosen for their scent and fruits that will provide enrichment to the animals.

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A squirrel monkey plays with a mirror enrichment at ZSL London Zoo

The squirrel monkeys check themselves out in their new mirror.

Squirrel monkey eating treats from a Christmas Tree enrichment at ZSL London Zoo

Don't you just hate it when a monkey steals all the Christmas tree treats?

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Black capped or Bolivian squirrel monkeys are a South American squirrel monkey species, found in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

The species lives in the Rainforest and mainly eat insects, fruit and seeds. These monkeys live in multi-male, multi-female groups and are considered to be the most active, social and vocal of all the squirrel monkeys.

The squirrel monkey’s status in the wild is threatened from use in biomedical research and as pets, bait and food. Currently ZSL London Zoo, along with other zoos in England, is involved in breeding programmes aimed at increasing numbers of this primate species. Our squirrel monkeys are part of the European Endangered Species Programme.

Squirrel monkey at ZSL London Zoo

Fascinating facts

  • The squirrel monkeys are the New World monkeys of the genus Saimiri. They are the only genus in the subfamily Saimirinae.
  • Squirrel monkey fur is short and close, coloured olive at the shoulders and yellowish orange on its back and extremities. Their throat and the ears are white and their mouths are black. The upper part of their head is hairy. This black and white face gives them their German name, 'skull monkeys'.
  • Squirrel monkeys grow to 25 to 35 cm, plus a 35 to 42 cm tail. They weigh 750 to 1100g. Remarkably, the brain mass to body mass ratio for squirrel monkeys is 1:17, which gives them the largest brain, proportionately, of all the primates.
  • Unlike the other New World monkeys, their tail is not used for climbing, but as a kind of "balancing pole" and also as a tool. Their movements in the branches are extremely speedy.
  • They live together in multi-male/multi-female groups with up to 500 members. These large groups can, however, occasionally break into smaller troops.
  • They have a number of vocal calls, including warning sounds to protect themselves from large falcons, which are a natural threat to them. Their small body size also makes them susceptible to predators such as snakes and felids.
  • The mating of the squirrel monkeys is subject to seasonal influences. Females give birth to young during the rainy season, after a 150- to 170-day gestation.