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Ask the Expert: Do monkeys like to climb?

Question: Do the monkeys like to climb a lot?

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Answer: Of course monkeys like to climb! But first, do you know the difference between a monkey and an ape?

Your Zoo has a few species of both types of mammals and they share many characteristics like hair instead of fur, opposable thumbs and a higher level of intelligence than other mammals — and they are both natural climbers!

The big difference between apes (gorillas, orangutans, gibbons) and monkeys (lemurs, howler) is that apes do not have tails. And those tails give monkeys quite an advantage when it comes to navigating their way through trees and vines.

“Most monkeys use their prehensile tails to balance, grasp branches and reach out for food or support. Some species of monkeys can grasp something as small as a grape with the end of their tail!” said Tad Schoffner, Curator of Animals.

One of the more exciting climbers to watch at your Zoo are the black howler monkeys in the Primate, Cats & Aquatics Building. The howlers climb on branches, ropes and cargo net hammocks, and keepers plan enrichment to help these monkeys get up high, including putting food in various locations for the howlers to find.

Schoffner said the underside of howlers’ tails are hairless skin, much like the palm of your hand, so the monkeys can use their tail to touch and feel items. They are quick, agile climbers – and also very loud. Their call can be heard for up to three miles away in the wild!

Black howler monkeys using prehensile tails

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