Squirrel monkey

Saimiri sciureus

Male squirrel monkey at Paignton Zoo
IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild
Class: Mammals
Order: Primates
Family: Cebidae

Squirrel monkeys are New World monkeys endemic to the canopy layer of tropical forests in South America (countries such as Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador).

This small primate is omnivorous, meaning they eat fruit, flowers, berries and various insects.

Interesting facts!

  • As a diurnal primate, squirrel monkeys sleep in groups at night and split into smaller groups during the day to forage.
  • These monkeys use a unique method of scent marking known as urine washing: this is when an animal urinates on its hands and then rubs it on its tail!
  • After mating, a single infant is born after 150 to 170 days of gestation. The youngster is carried on the back of its mother for the first ten weeks, before it gets enough strength and confidence to start to explore independently.


Habitat destruction is decreasing the forest habitat of these monkeys, however they are common throughout their natural range. They are also captured for the pet trade and sometimes for medical research.

Our squirrel monkeys are part of the EAZA ex-situ breeding programme for the species.