The boat ride back to the lodge after a trip to the community medicinal plant garden is as peaceful as it is beautiful. Green jungle flanks each side of the smooth, coffee-brown Tambopata River. A snow-white Great Egret stalks the shoreline and a pair of Red and Green Macaws screech as they fly high overhead. It’s a sunny afternoon and cicadas lazily drone from the Peruvian jungle. Just as the boat rounds a bend, the guide suddenly yells out, “Red Howler Monkeys”!
Pointing to the top of a tree on the left, the guests can make out what appear to be several reddish, round objects in its crown. As they get closer, one of the objects starts clambering along a branch and the air is filled with an odd, roaring, windy sound. The monkeys are chewing on leaves and don’t seem to pay any attention to the people watching them through binoculars. As the boat moves on, the guide says, “Red Howlers are vegetarians. We often see them along this part of the river. Maybe we will see another troop on our way in to the lodge.”
Red Howler Monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) are one of several primate species that make their home in the forests of Tambopata. Not as active as other monkeys, they tend to sit up in a favorite tree and feast on the surrounding leaves for long periods of time. This monkey occurs at all of the Amazonian eco-lodges run by Rainforest Expeditions and is frequently sighted by guests during their Peruvian jungle tour.
Some more facts about Red Howler Monkeys:
- Aptly named: The name of this primate species describes them well. They have reddish fur and like other species of howler monkeys, are quite vocal. They make a windy, roaring noise with a specially modified hyoid bone in the throat. The sound is so loud that it can carry for 20 miles! Howler monkeys are the loudest animal in the new world.
- Prehensile tails for an arboreal lifestyle: Like many monkeys in the Amazon rainforest, Red Howlers have a prehensile tail used for grasping tree branches. This adaptation is used to keep them from falling to the forest floor.
- Color vision: While color vision in most New World monkeys is restricted to females, both sexes of Red Howler Monkeys have this adaptation.
- Social animals: Red Howler Monkeys usually live in a group of 10 to 15 individuals that includes a few males, several females, and young monkeys.
- Vegetarian: Howler monkeys are the only New World primates with a diet that mostly consists of leaves. They also eat nuts, some fruits, and occasionally take bird eggs.
How to see Red Howler Monkeys on an Amazon jungle tour:
- Watch for reddish “balls” in treetops: It’s surprising how well Red Howler Monkeys can blend in to their surroundings. They can be easily overlooked due to their inactivity. Use binoculars to check any ball-like objects seen in the tops of trees to see if they are Red Howler Monkeys.
- Watch treetops on boat rides and from canopy towers: Red Howlers are true denizens of the canopy. Boat rides along the Tambopata River and canopy towers provide views of treetops frequented by this monkey species.
Take a Peruvian jungle tour with Rainforest Expeditions to see and hear how Red Howler Monkeys got their name.