The Titi monkey a symbol of Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica is the only country in the world where the Central American Squirrel Monkey, also known as the Titi Monkey (Saimiri oerstedii) can be found. The Central Pacific region is home to this iconic species for fauna. It is the smallest of the four monkey species found in Costa Rica, which include: the Howler monkey (Alouatta palliata), the White faced Capuchin Monkey, the Spider Monkey (Cebus capucinus), and the Titi Monkey or Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri oerstedii).

Titi Monkey at Manuel Antonio


This endemic species is in danger of extinction, though due to several conservation projects of the Central and Southern Pacific regions, we are pleased to report that while only 1200 of these adorable monkeys where accounted for in 2001,it is now estimated that the population is closer to 4000.

What a Titi Monkey or Central American Squirrel Monkey looks like:

It is a small monkey, measuring only 30 inches in length, 16 inches of which are the long black tail. It has an orange body and a distinctive white and black mask. Adults weigh between .5 and 1.1 kg. Its tail is used primarily for balance and warmth. It lives and travels in large groups that typically contain between 20 and 75 monkeys.

What a Titi Monkey or Central American Squirrel Monkey eats:

It has an omnivorous diet, preferring delicious wild fruit, seeds, leaves, nuts, fruit, insects, and flowers. Though, it also eats small vertebrates, including bats, birds, lizards and tree frogs. It finds its food in the lower and middle layers of the forest, typically between fifteen and thirty feet high. They SHOULD NOT eat bananas, which are not native to Costa Rica.

Where Titi Monkeys or Central American Squirrel Monkeys live:

This species inhabits primary and secondary rainforests which have been partially logged, where they are often spotted in groups, searching for food. It requires forests with abundant low and mid-level vegetation and has difficulty surviving in tall, mature, undisturbed forests that lack such vegetation. There are 2 sub-species found in Costa Rica. The most endangered species is that in found in the area of Parrita, Quepos, Manuel Antonio, and Potrero Grande. The other, found in th southern most point of Costa Rica in the Osa Peninsula is considered in a vulnerable state, though no longer receives the classification of endangered.   The best places to observe this incredible species are the Manuel Antonio National Park and Puerto Jimenez in the Osa Peninsula.

Hermosa Beach - Uvita

Behavior of the Titi Monkey:

The Central American squirrel monkey or Titi Monkey is a diurnal species, which lives in the tree tops. It uses all for legs to move through the trees of the forest canopy. It lives in groups containing several adults, both males and females as well as juveniles. The group generally numbers between 20 and 75 monkeys. The group tends to sleep in the same trees every night for months at a time, unlike other squirrel monkey species.

Although South American species of squirrel monkeys often travel with and feed together with capuchin monkeys, the Central American squirrel monkey only rarely associates with the white-headed capuchin. Certain bird species associate with the Central American squirrel monkey. Bird species known to regularly follow squirrel monkeys include the Double-toothed Kite, the Grey-headed Tanager , the Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, other woodcreepers, motmots, and trogons. These birds look to harvest on plant and animal material the birds blush out. This activity increases during the wet season, when food is harder to find.

Reproduction of the Titi Monkey:

Females do not form dominance hierarchies, and males only do so at breeding season. Females become sexually mature at two and a half years, and males at 4 to 5 years. Sexually mature females leave the natal group, but males can remain with their natal group their entire life. The Central American squirrel monkey can live for 15 to 25 years.

The breeding season for the Central American squirrel monkey is in September. All females come into estrus at virtually the same time. A month or two before the breeding season begins, males become larger. This is not due to extra muscle, but to altered water balance within the male’s body. Female choice determines which males get to breed with females. Females tend to prefer the males that expand the most in advance of breeding season. This is suspected to be because the most enlarged males are generally the oldest and the most effective at detecting predators.

The gestation period is six months, and the infants are born within a single week during February and March. Typically, a single infant is born.Only 50% of infants survive more than six months, largely due to predation by birds. The infant remains dependent on its mother for about one year. Females give birth every 12 months, at which time the prior infant becomes independent.

Dangers that the Titi Monkey Face:

Although it has a number of predators, including raptors, cats and snakes, the Central American squirrel monkey population declined drastically after the 1970s, prior to which 200,000 specimens were accounted for; this decline is believed to be caused by deforestation, hunting, and capture to be kept as pets. Its habitat is fragmented in patches of rainforest, which makes it difficult to get around safely. The frequent interaction with people puts them at greater risk, altering their natural diet and making them accessible for those wishing to have wild animals as pets. Efforts are underway to preserve the species. Despite the threats to the population, in 2008 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded its conservation status from “endangered” to “vulnerable”.

While they are small and cute, please remember they do not deserve to be abducted from their homes and families and taken from the beautiful area where they can roam freely through the trees to be placed in a cage, regardless of the size, and have their whole world change, just so people can look at them on a daily basis. If this continues, there will be none left for the world to enjoy.

Conservation Efforts:

Of Costa Ricans 4 monkey species, the one which has been determined to have the least chances of long term survival is the Titi Monkey; therefore it is under careful watch by the Primates Division of the UICN and has been included in the Mesoamerican Primates Conservation Plan, as the primate in greatest danger of extinction.

The Titi Monkey Conservation Organization is working on a Biological Corridor along the Naranjo River, in order to allow the monkeys 2700 hectares of land which they can travel through safely.  Kids Saving The Rainforesthave also built over 120 monkey bridges since 2001 to keep monkeys and sloths safely above the road and electrical wires where many lose their lives from being hit by cars or electrocuted.