The Black-capped or tufted capuchin is a species of primates with a long, thick tail and lean body. The capuchin is very prompt, wrapping its tail around branches of trees and thus using it as a “fifth limb”. The coat of the Black-capped capuchin is mainly dark brown. The color of their face varies from white to pink while the hair on their back is relatively shorter and darker than the rest of their body. The fur is creamy with light tan on their shoulders, neck and face.
Generally, habitats in which they live include different types of forests. They are found in tropical rainforests at the altitude of up to 2700 meters as well in open forests. The area of their habitat is a huge territory, covering Amazon rainforest of the Guyanas, Venezuela and Brazil, stretching west from the Rio Negro and reaching the Orinoco in Venezuela. The habitat of Black-capped capuchins also includes eastern part and upper Andean Magdalena valley of Colombia as well as certain areas of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. In addition, they have been successfully introduced to Trinidad and Tobago: currently, there’s a population of Black-capped capuchins in the northeastern peninsula of Trinidad Island.
Black-capped capuchins are diurnal. They are arboreal animals, moving quadrupedally by leaping and climbing. They are highly sociable primates, usually congregating in groups of 8-15 individuals. Social grooming is a usual activity between members of a group. The dominant male is the leader of the group, protecting it from predators as well other groups of monkeys; as soon as another group invades its home range, the dominant male leads the defense of the territory. As it comes to food and mating, the dominant male is privileged, having the right of first choice. Even in case of food shortage, when the group finds a new source of food, the dominant male always eats first.
The capuchins are omnivores, they feed upon fruit, leaves and insects. In addition, they skillfully break nuts, catch frogs and small birds. It’s even believed that the Black-capped capuchins consume small mammals.
The capuchins are polygamous, having a mating system where females mate primarily with the dominant male of the group. There’s no specific breeding season for the Black-capped capuchin. However, births take place mainly in dry season and during early rainy season. The period of gestation lasts 150-160 days, after which a female usually gives birth to a single baby (very rarely – twins). Parental care is generally left to the female, who feeds the young for 9 months. For several months after birth, the infant travels, clung to the fur of its mother. Males reach sexual maturity at 7 years old while females – much earlier, being able to give birth as early as 4 years old.
Deforestation and loss of habitat are not among serious threats to the Black-capped capuchins, since they can easily change their habitat and have very high reproductive rate. Natural threats to the population of these animals include predators such as jaguars or birds of prey. The Black-capped capuchins are often killed for meat by humans. In addition, they are frequently captured for pet trade and entertainment industry.
According to IUCN, the Black-capped capuchin is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Classified as Least Concern (LC) in the IUCN Red List, this species is not considered endangered but its population is currently decreasing.
Feeding upon fruit, the capuchins become seed dispersers of certain forest plants. On the other hand, preying on small animals, they are among important predators of the area. Sometimes groups of the Black-capped capuchins mix with those of other species such as squirrel monkeys, cooperating with them in search of food. This cooperation makes the foraging process much easier for squirrel monkeys and soon they find new source of food. However, this interaction is not likely to benefit Black-capped capuchins.