Black Spider Monkey

"The Strongest Bond" by Mike Wiesmeier (digital)

I love the Spider Monkey’s agility, and the contrast of that sudden graceful movement with the quiet moments like the one in the image. The intensity of their expression is amazing.
— Mike Wiesemeier

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Spider monkeys live in the tropical rainforests of eastern South America. The most largely studied populations are those in Surinam. These arboreal creatures prefer high density forests where they can spend most of their time high in the canopies.

Family life

Black spider monkeys do not give birth every year; typically, a single offspring is born anywhere between two to five years. The first ten weeks of life are vulnerable for young black spider monkeys and they rely completely on their mothers during that time. Up until their young are around one year old, the mother will continue to provide care, even carrying them on their backs to move around. Black spider monkeys are social; group gatherings can reach up to three-dozen animals. During night hours, larger groups will break into smaller sleeping parties of around six monkeys.


The average lifespan of black spider monkey is 22 years. However, the oldest recorded in captivity lived to be 46 and the oldest tracked in the wild lived to be 38.

Hunting Habits/Diet

The black spider monkey plays an important role in the ecosystem of the tropical rainforest. Their dispersal of seeds facilitates growth and development of the environment around them. Their diet of nuts, fruits, leaves, birds eggs and spiders is found primarily in the canopy where they spend the majority of their time. The spider monkey depends heavily upon fruits and will open up their mouths and swallow them whole. Spider Monkey groups follow patterns for feeding that the dominant female oversees. 


The population is estimated to have fallen by 30% over 45 years, down to about 300-400.

Fun Fact

Black spider monkeys do not have thumbs. They have four fingers that cling to several branches and help them extend their bodies; this also causes them to resemble a spider, hence the name “spider monkey”. After periods of separation, two spider monkeys will greet each other with a hug and a sniff.

Why are They Endangered?

The destruction of tropical rainforests and threats from hunting pose the greatest challenges to the survival of the black spider monkey. Their preference for mature tropical forests and the fact that they seldom venture into disturbed habitats, leave these monkeys especially vulnerable to the effects of forest fragmentation. Local populations will hunt spider monkeys for food, which is also detrimental to their status. Logging and deforestation, as well as human contact, agitate and continually jeopardize their survival.




Black Spider Monkey ( Ateles paniscus)