Observing Howler Monkeys During Your Amazon River Cruise
| Amazon Facts
Observing wildlife during your Amazon riverboat cruise is very much unlike viewing animals in the zoo. Although the Amazon boasts the greatest diversity of wildlife on Earth, this does not mean the greatest density. Viewing wildlife in the Amazon will often require binoculars.
Unlike a trip to the plains of Africa where a traveller might see tens of thousands of animals migrating, in the Amazon we see lots of kinds of animals, but not large numbers of each kind. During an Amazon tour, you never know what you will encounter, but cruises generally see a wide variety of creatures on account of the skill of our guides, the small size of our groups, and the fact that we visit unspoiled areas of the Amazon Basin.
One of the most charismatic species you may have the opportunity to see (and hear, for that matter!) is the howler monkey.
Anatomy of a Howler Monkey:
Howler monkeys are among the largest primates in the Neotropics. They can grow to be 22 to 36 inches tall, when standing. And, their tails are about the same size in length as their bodies.
Male howlers are black, while females are brown. They have prehensile tails that they can use to grab onto branches. They make loud vocalizations to mark their territory, thus earning their name. Their howls, which resemble a strong wind blowing through a tunnel, have been heard over two miles away by researchers. While most individuals do not live for more than 15 years in the wild, it is possible for howlers to reach over 20 years in age.
Where do Howler Monkeys Live?
Howler monkeys are found only in the rainforests of the Americas. They live in tall rainforest trees, in groups of between 4 and 19 members. They travel from tree to tree in search of food - walking from limb to limb, rather than jumping. While not particularly perky primates, they are most active during the day (diurnal), sleeping high in rainforest trees at night.
What do they eat?
Howlers are strict vegetarians, eating only flowers, fruits and leaves. In Belize, where howlers are known as 'baboons', special community-managed protected areas have been established to keep people from over-harvesting the fruit and flowers that the howlers need to survive.
Threats toward Howler Monkeys:
The greatest threat to the existence of howlers is from humans. The black howler monkey is endangered throughout much of its range due to hunting and habitat destruction. As forests are cleared, howlers, who need several acres of forest per troop to survive, are becoming increasingly rare.
Throughout the region in which they are found, howlers are hunted both for food and for sport. Some experts believe that howlers could become extinct within the next 35 years.
By taking an Amazon River cruise, then, you are assisting in preserving the habitat these beautiful and fascinating creatures need to survive.