Howler Monkey

By Alexander Holmgren

Howler Monkey

Scientific Name: Alouatta
Where in the World: Tropical Central and South America
How Big: 13.3 to 15.4 lbs (6-7 kg)
What Does It Eat: Mostly leaves, as well fruit, nuts, and flowers.
How Many: Non Threatened

Howler monkeys are on the largest new world primates and are recognized as the loudest land animal in the world. They’ve earned both this reputation and this name from the unique enlarged hyoid bone in the throats of howler monkeys, that are the keys to their characteristic “howling”. These vocalizations can be heard from up to twenty miles away and act as territory protection/marking and mate protection. Another interesting fact about these unique animals is the affect they have on people, writer have often saw them as indicative of sadness and a serious composure, and the Mayans worshipped them for their beauty and had depictions of them as gods.

The howler monkey group contains 15 different species of howler monkeys, all of which are native to the forests of Central and South America. Howler monkeys live within groups of five to fifteen individuals with usually about three males and the rest all females. What’s unique about these group structures though is that both male and female juveniles will leave the group they were born in and join a new one, with the majority of their adult lives spent in groups that they aren’t related to.

One of the howler's primary senses is its keen sense of smell. These monkeys have short snout with wide O shapes nostrils; these noses are capable of smelling food such as fruits and nuts from over two kilometers away. Another interesting characteristic of howlers monkeys is their tails. The tail of howler monkeys is in most cases roughly the same size as the body and is prehensile, meaning it can fully wrap around objects such as branches. Not only that but the tails of howler monkeys have tactile pads, the same structures that humans, monkeys, and apes share on their hands and feet, meaning that it can feel with the same aptitude that its hands and feet could feel with. This all means that the tails of a howler monkey acts as a fifth limb for them that is ideal for movement through the trees.

Howler monkeys are the only folivores, meaning that they eat primarily leaves, of the New World monkeys. Part of the reason for this is because they are outcompeted for fruit by the much faster and much more aggressive spider monkeys. That is not to say however, that howler monkeys do not love eating fruit, as at any chance they get they will attempt to eat it.

One of the largest threats to the howler monkey is the deforestation of their homes to use as land for farming or to obtain wood to sell. Another large threat is their value in bush meat. Bush meat is meat obtained from wild animals and is generally applied to places such as Africa, Asia, and South and Central America. It also especially applies to primates. Howler monkeys are a large and cheap source of protein and because of their usually docile nature they make for easy prey. The last major threat to these unique primates is the threat of them being abducted and placed into zoos.

Animal profiles

Bare-Faced Ibis
Blue and Gold Macaw
Common Potoo
Green Honeycreeper
Grey Winged Trumpeter
Harpy Eagle
Horned Screamer
Jabiru Stork
Malachite Kingfisher
Mealy Parrot
Northern Cassowary
Savanna hawk
Scale-crested pygmy-tyrant
Rhinoceros Hornbill
Scarlet Ibis
Wattled Jacana

Asian black bear
Black-and-white ruffed lemur
Black-faced spider monkey
Bornean Rhino
Brown capuchin monkey
Capybara [2nd profile]
Coquerel's Sifaka
Crowned Lemur
Eastern Long Beaked Echidna
Howler Monkey
Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat
Malayan Tapir
Mountain Gorilla
Plains Zebra not a rainforest species
South American tapir
South American coatimundi
Spectral Tarsier
Spider Monkey
Squirrel Monkeys
White-lipped peccary
Woolly Monkey

Green Basilisk
Leatherback Sea Turtle not a rainforest species
Pygmy stump-tailed chameleon
Spectacled Caiman

Giant Chinese Salamander
Gladiator Tree Frog
Green Poison Arrow Frog
Indian Purple Frog
Monkey Frog
Follow mongabay kids on Twitter

All about Rainforests


  • May I use graphics from mongabay.com for my projects? Yes, you may provided that you don't remove the mongabay label from the images. You may use information from the site for class projects and can cite kids.mongabay.com as the source.
  • Can I interview the founder of mongabay.com for my school project? Unfortunately due to the large number of requests and the need to work on the main mongabay.com site, Rhett (the person who runs mongabay.com) is not available for interviews. However he has answered some common questions on the Rainforest Interview page.
  • Do you have any games or activities? Currently there are a few on the resources page. There may be more in the future.
  • Who are some scientists who study rainforests? Take a look at the Interviews with rainforest experts page.
  • How can I help save rainforests? Some ideas are listed on the Rainforest Solutions page.
  • Where can I learn more about rainforests? There is a wealth of information at the main rainforest site

    Simplified version (fewer images and links)

  • home | teacher resources | rainforest books for kids | other languages | about the site | main rainforest site | help support the site | search | contact

    ©2008 mongabay.com