Primates in jeopardy: The monkey with a 'fifth limb'
Li Yunqi

In tropical Central America lives a group of monkey called spider monkey. It got this name because of its long and slender limbs that resemble that of spiders. 

The Central American spider monkey, also known as the black-handed spider monkey or Geoffroy's spider monkey, is among the world's 25 most endangered primates.

It is one of the largest New World Monkeys, monkeys found in the tropical regions of Central and South America and Mexico, and is native to Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Panama.

It has a tail that is longer than its limbs, and arms longer than legs. The agile tail is very powerful and has a palm-like pad at the end, which is often used as a "fifth limb". 

These spider monkeys like to hang on trees with their tails, especially when they feed. The tail can also pick fruits or scoop water from tree holes.

Central American spider monkeys live in large groups of up to 100 individuals, and forage in large areas. An adult can travel two kilometers per day foraging. This makes them very important to the ecological environment – they can spread seeds of plants in a large range. However, the requirement of having a large tract of land to survive also makes them vulnerable to habitat loss. In the past four decades, their population has decreased by 50 percent.

Primates in jeopardy

As the most common primate on Earth, homo sapiens share the same order with other 512 species across 93 countries. Non-human primates are our closest relatives on this planet. They play a significant role in various types of ecosystems, from the mysterious tropical forests to the grand African savannas, their intelligence is fascinating and sheds light into studies of human society and behaviors.

However, many species of primates are on the brink of extinction. The series "Primates in jeopardy" is based on the list "World's 25 Most Endangered Primates (2018-2020)" co-published by IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group (PSG), International Primatological Society (IPS), Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Bristol Zoological Society (BZS).

This is the tenth iteration of a biennial listing of a consensus of the 25 primate species considered to be among the most endangered worldwide and the most in need of conservation measures.

(All photos via VCG. Cover image designed by CGTN's Chen Yuyang.)

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