Are Spider Monkeys Endangered?
The threats to biodiversity on our planet are not new phenomena. For decades, researchers, scientists, campaigners and anyone witness to the loss of animal and plant species on this plant have known the score. Some animals tend to have a greater spotlight shone upon them. Animals like the panda bear, gorilla and others are commonly associated with wildlife conservation. Unfortunately, so many species are under threat, it is hard to know which are in greater need of protection. At AnimalWised, we look at just one species which you may wonder whether they fall into this category. This is why we ask are spider monkeys endangered?
Endangered spider monkey species
Unfortunately, the simple answer is that spider monkeys are in danger of extinction. What makes the answer more complicated is that the term ‘spider monkey’ refers to various simian species that belong to the genus Ateles. There are seven primate species in this genus which are all known as new-world monkeys as they inhabit the American continent.
To know the conservation and threat levels of spider monkeys, we need to look at each spider monkey species individually:
- Geoffroy's spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi): this species is native to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. It is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as in danger of extinction, with a declining population trend. Six subspecies have been recognized, although further studies may reveal more.
- White-fronted spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth): this type of spider monkey lives in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Its classification, like the previous one, is in danger of extinction and its population trend is also considered to be in decline.
- Red-faced spider monkey (Ateles paniscus): this native species of Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname is considered vulnerable. Although its considered is not yet in danger of extinction, its population is in decline and conservation is still required to protect this species.
- Brown spider monkey (Ateles hybridus): the brown spider monkey lives in both Colombia and Venezuela and is the species with the most dramatic conservation status as it has been classified as critically endangered. About 80% of the population of this species has been lost in the last 40 years.
- White-cheeked spider monkey (Ateles marginatus): the IUCN has classified the white-cheeked spider monkey as endangered, so it is added to the other species mentioned so far. This animal is endemic to Brazil, restricted to an area of the Amazon of that country. Studies are unfortunately lacking conclusive information to best understand the species.
- Black-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps): the species is distributed in Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, recognizing two subspecies: A. f . fusciceps, which is endemic to Ecuador, and A. f . rufiventris, which lives in Colombia and Panama. It is also classified as endangered.
- Peruvian spider monkey (Ateles chamek): this type of spider monkey has a distribution range that occupies Bolivia, Brazil and Peru. Similarly, it is considered endangered because the population decline is estimated at at least 50% in the last 45 years.
As you can see, although not all spider monkey species are considered officially ‘in danger of extinction’, all are under threat. We will look at the specific reasons for this in the next section. As you may have expected, they are not the only primates which are faced with such population concerns. Take a look at our article on critically endangered monkey species to see others.
Why are spider monkeys considered endangered?
There are several reasons that have caused spider monkeys to be in danger of extinction. Here we look at the main factors in more detail:
- As in the case of the black-faced spider monkey, the white-bellied spider monkey and others, one of their main threats is hunting directly with weapons to be consumed as bushmeat (wild food source).
- The transformation of the ecosystems where the spider monkeys live for the development of cultivated spaces also significantly affects the population decline of the species. Much of their habitat is used to grow crops such as soybeans which is used as a type of animal feed to feed livestock. Much of this goes toward the meat industry, a particular concern in Amazonian regions.
- The felling of the trees where the spider monkeys feed and develop has also had a considerable effect on spider monkey populations. Deforestation has caused the decrease in population of many animal species in recent decades.
- Several species of spider monkey are commercialized to be sold as pets or to zoos. In no case are these animals to be domesticated. They should only be received by animal services for recovery or healing purposes and always by specialized animal rehabilitators. These animals must live in their natural ecosystems.
- The reproductive process of these monkeys works against them for the recovery of the species. Spider monkeys mature sexually later in life, have long pregnancies, generally only birth one infant per pregnancy and have long periods between one gestation and another.
- The expansion of livestock, hydroelectric construction, roads, mining and associated infrastructure development have also significantly affected the habitat of spider monkeys.
As we can see, human-derived threats are those which most affect spider monkeys. We can see how human intrusion on wild ecosystems also affects other animals with our article on the most endangered species in North America.
Spider monkey conservation efforts
The endangered status of spider monkeys, some of which are critically threatened with extinction, is a worrying situation. Our knowledge of extinct species makes us aware that conservation efforts don't always work. Often this is because they are too little too late, although many other factors contribute. For this reason, we need to raise awareness and understand what conservation efforts are in place:
- Various species inhabit protected spaces such as national parks, nature reserves, ecological reserves and ecological stations.
- They have been included in some of the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the commercialization of biodiversity.
- In some regions, the creation of new protected areas has been promoted that coincide with spaces where groups of spider monkeys live.
- The introduction of laws within protected areas to stop the hunting and capture of spider monkeys for the purposes of selling into the pet trade, as a food source or any other reason are encouraged. Despite some laws already being in place, much illegal poaching occurs. This requires both greater policing of the laws, as well as the spread of information to help us know what is at stake.
Despite the fact that no species of spider monkey is currently considered completely extinct, their populations have been completely extirpated in certain areas. This alerts us to the very serious threats these animals face. The introduction and application of more drastic measures is required to help these spider monkey populations recover and help redistribute them in these areas.
Now we know about the potential fate of spider monkeys, we are saddened to say that many other species are also considered endangered. To learn more, read our related articles on the endangered animal species of Peru and the marine animals more in danger of extinction.
If you want to read similar articles to Are Spider Monkeys Endangered?, we recommend you visit our Endangered animals category.
- ITS. (2022). Ateles. Retrieved from: https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=572812#null
- IUCN. (2022). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved from: https://www.iucnredlist.org