Cebus kaapori

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

The Ka’apor capuchin lives in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. In the northeastern states of Pará and Maranhão, they can be found in lowland rainforest. Monkeys in the genus Cebus often have large home ranges, however, the Ka’apor capuchin’s range is thought to be the smallest of any Cebus species. Based on studies in the area, it is thought that the Ka’apor capuchin is rare even in its known territory. They can be found in two protected areas, the Gurupo Biological Reserve and the Lago de Turucui Environmental Protection Area. The Ka’apor capuchin’s habitat is thoroughly fragmented, which makes them especially vulnerable. They are not adaptable to these fragmented or secondary habitats.


Capuchins are comprised of monkeys from two genera, the Sapajus and Cebus. Those in the genus Sapajus are referred to as tufted because the males are characterized by having a tuft of hair atop their heads. Untufted capuchins, or those from the genus Cebus, lack this hair tuft. Sapajus capuchins are also referred to as robust capuchins because they are physically larger than Cebus, which are likewise referred to as gracile capuchins. The Ka’apor capuchin was thought to be a subspecies of the Guinanan weeper capuchin (Cebus olivaceus) for many years. Indeed, some researchers still believe that they should be classified as such. However, due to morphological and molecular differences, it has been named a separate species.

Ka'apor capuchin range, IUCN, 2023

Size, Weight, and Lifespan

The Ka’apor capuchin is, like all other capuchins, sexually dimorphic. This means that their size differs depending on if they are male or female. In Ka’apor capuchins, the males are the larger sex. On average, these monkeys weigh around 6.6 pounds (3 kg), which is comparable to other capuchin species. If the Ka’apor capuchin were to stand upright, it would be roughly 18 inches (45 cm) tall. The Ka’apor capuchin’s tail is around 20 inches (50.8 cm) long. Ka’apor capuchins live a long life in the wild, generally until they’re 30 to 40 years old. In captivity, they have been known to live into their 50s.


The Ka’apor capuchin has a mixture of light brown, dark brown, and cream-colored pelage. Often, their stomachs, arms, legs, and tails are light to dark brown. Their shoulders and cheeks are a cream color, and the top of their head is capped with dark brown to black hair.  

This monkey has a rounder skull shape, which is a difference between them and other capuchins. However, as a part of their sexual dimorphism, males tend to have more robust-looking heads, with slightly protruding foreheads. The Ka’apor capuchin has a semi-prehensile tail, which means they are able to use their tail as a fifth limb, to an extent. Since they are only partially prehensile, they use their tail to aid in climbing, balancing, and swinging or hopping between branches. 

Photo: CStrauch/Creative Commons

The Ka’apor capuchin is omnivorous, however, they rely heavily on fruit for their daily caloric intake, with around 75% of their diet consisting of fruit. As omnivores, they eat insects and some small invertebrates. When seeking insects, they have been observed breaking branches and using their teeth and hands to extract ants, and they have been known to look for snails and smash them against trees to extract the nutrient-dense insides. This is because their teeth and jaws are too small and not strong enough to crack them on their own. If the opportunity arises, they have also been known to partake in bird eggs. These monkeys also fancy nuts and seeds, and smash them on the ground to break their hard exterior. They are dietarily flexible, and can theoretically adapt to variation within their diet.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Capuchin monkeys have large home ranges, which is the area of land that they may travel within a month or so. They also have relatively large daily ranges, which is the distance they travel in a 24-hour period. While this is the case for most capuchins, the Ka’apor capuchin is thought to have one of the smallest known ranges, with their daily range being just a half-acre (~0.2 ha). They are known to live alongside other monkey species, specifically bearded sakis (Chiropotes chiropotes) and several other capuchin species.

During their day, they spend 48% of their time moving around, 24% eating, 16% foraging, 9% resting, and 3% socializing. This varies slightly, depending on whether it is the rainy season or dry season, however, the trends were still relatively the same. The Ka’apor capuchin is arboreal, yet they will venture down to the forest floor if foraging necessitates it. They largely prefer to be in the lower to mid section of the canopy layer. They prefer to move quadrupedally, or on all fours, across large branches.

Fun Facts

The Ka’apor capuchin monkey is named after the Ka’apor people, who first discovered the monkey and lived alongside the species for hundreds of years. Ka’apor roughly translates to “footprints of the forest”

Daily Life and Group Dynamics

Ka’apor capuchins live in multi-male, multi-female groups. While some capuchins live in groups of up to 30 individuals, the Ka’apor capuchins group tends to be 10 or less individuals. These individual members will be made up of adult males, adult females, juveniles, and infants. Females stay in the group their whole lives, so the bonds between mothers, daughters, and sisters is vital. Males, on the other hand, migrate out of the group to find other groups, or females. This dispersal of males allows them to maintain genetic diversity and avoid inbreeding. 


Ka’apor capuchins use a variety of vocalizations and physical cues to communicate with one another, as well as other sympatric species (other animals in the same geographic area). Using high-pitched screams, they may alarm other group members of predators. They may chatter, using a plethora of barks, coos, and chirps to communicate with others regarding daily group life. Grooming one another, also known as allogrooming, is an important tool for maintaining group bonds. While allogrooming, it is common for participants to smack their lips, which signals contentedness to others.

Reproduction and Family

Ka’apor capuchins live in groups that contain multiple males and females, and males and females each have multiple partners. They have a breeding season, which is generally when natural resources are in abundance. Males reach sexual maturity at around 7 to 9 years old, while females reach this maturity at around 4 to 6 years. Females, once pregnant, will gestate for 150-180 days, and give birth to a single infant. Twins sometimes occur, but they are rare. Infants are nursed for two to four months, however, they continue to be reliant on their mothers for another year or two. Males are not involved with infant care, but other females in the group will alloparent, which is when closely related individuals will take part in parental duties.

Photo: © Ricardo Ferreira Esteves/iNaturalist/Creative Commons
Ecological Role

As omnivores whose diet relies heavily on fruit, the Ka’apor capuchin is an important seed disperser. Seed dispersal may occur in a couple of different ways. The monkeys may eat a fruit and seed whole and, after passing through the monkey, the seed is expelled in a different location surrounded in a fecal fertilizer. Another common way is simply the messiness with which these monkeys eat. While tearing into ripe fruit, they will discard the less-than-delectable seed, letting it fall to the forest floor.

Conservation Status and Threats

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Ka’apor capuchin as Critically Endangered (IUCN, 2015), appearing on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

They are included in the IUCN’s 2022-2023 “Primates in Peril: The 25 Most Endangered Primate Species publication.”

The Ka’apor capuchin is a severely endangered species. Like so many primate species, they are impacted by deforestation for agriculture, specifically for cattle and palm oil use. It is estimated that up to 80% of their habitat has been destroyed due to deforestation and habitat fragmentation. 

In the 1970s, a large dam was constructed in their habitat. The result of this was the severe flooding of about 772 square miles (2000  km²). This continued to impact their environment, and fragmented populations by creating small islands among the flooding, isolating these monkeys and leaving them particularly vulnerable to adverse conditions. 

Capuchins have historically fallen prey to humans who would seek to capture them for the pet trade and entertainment industry. While this does not happen as often for Ka’apor capuchins, it is not uncommon for nearby indigenous peoples to keep them as pets. 

Poaching is a concern for these monkeys, with them being hunted locally for bushmeat. 

Conservation Efforts

The Ka’apor capuchin is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between governments whose goal is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

There are only three populations of Ka’apor capuchin that are considered viable at this point in time, and all resources available are being targeted at helping them. They occur in protected areas, which is positive. However, due to their low-plasticity, they are especially vulnerable to climate change and varying weather conditions. More research is needed for this species, as there is still much about them that we do not know, especially regarding behavior and habitat use, and population trends. Education and outreach are needed at the local and national level, in order to spread awareness of the Ka’apor capuchin plight. 

  • https://animalia.bio/kaapori-capuchin
  • https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/74155-Cebus-kaapori
  • https://palmoildetectives.com/2022/10/09/kaapori-capuchin-cebus-kaapori/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24677294/
  • https://www.animalinfo.org/species/primate/cebukaap.htm
  • https://cdn.www.gob.pe/uploads/document/file/3574458/Primates_in_Peril_2022_2023.pdf.pdf
  • https://eol.org/pages/7216904
  • https://pib.socioambiental.org/en/Povo:Ka’apor 
  • https://mungaiandthegoaconstrictor.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/fast-fact-attack-endangered-species-no-79-the-kaapor-capuchin-monkey/
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/000632079500095X 
  • https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/40019/166617312 
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/cebus


Written by Robyn Scott, April 2024