25 Cool And Interesting Monkey Facts For Kids

To help kids understand this cheeky animal, share some intriguing facts about monkeys.

Written by Manjiri Kochrekar • 
Image: Shutterstock

“Stop-monkeying-around.” This phrase strikes a chord with most children. And before they start asking you numerous questions about this animal, why not share some interesting monkey facts for kids. Monkeys are more than just funny little critters swinging from tree to tree, no matter how much we would like to believe so. So, enchant your child with some fascinating monkey facts.

1. There Are Over 264 Species Of Monkeys:

Monkeys belong to a paraphyletic group of primates and are commonly called “dry-nosed” primates. More than 260 species of monkeys have been discovered. Monkeys are mostly arboreal, which means they reside on trees and land. These animals are active during the day and are considered to be very intelligent, especially the Old World Monkeys. There is a common misconception that lemurs and galagos belong to the elite group of monkeys. However, they belong to a category of primates called “wet-nosed” primates. There are two major categories of monkeys: New World Monkeys and Old World Monkeys. What distinguishes the two is their place of origin. New World Monkeys, from the Southern and Central parts of America, and Old World Monkeys, from Africa and Asia.

2. Mandrill Is The Largest Monkey:

Mandrills are characterized by a gray or olive green pelage, and a yellow and white banded underbelly. A red stripe runs down the middle of its elongated muzzle. Its hairless face is marked by white tufts as well as red nostrils and lips. The adults of this species have a more pronounced color. Chest glands in both sexes are essential for olfactory communication. Canines in males are longer than those in females. Cited to be sexually dimorphic mammals, the mandrill male is larger and more virile than the female. Males weigh around 19 to 37 kg, whereas females grow to about half that weight.

3. Pygmy Marmoset Monkey Is The Smallest Monkey:

The Pygmy Marmoset is one among the New World Monkey group. It thrives in the rain forests of the Amazon. It weighs a little over 100 grams. It also is called a gummivore, which means that it feed on gums of saps and trees. These monkeys are found in evergreen forests. Marmosets live in troops of two to around nine individuals. Every troop comprises a dominant male and a female capable of breeding. Each female can have as many as four successive litters. Each troop can have as many as 5 to 9 members. Communication occurs through signals which can be chemical or visual. Visual displays are used to demonstrate dominance.

4. Apes Are Not Monkeys:

Apes and monkeys belong to the same primate subgroup. Contrary to common belief that apes are monkeys, there are major differences between the two. There are various primates. Primate groups are characterized by their ancestry and characteristics. Apes include gibbons, chimpanzees, and gorillas. They are closer in resemblance to humans than monkeys. The basic body structure and levels of intelligence are similar. Chimps are the closest relatives to humans and exhibit a similar culture. They, too, make their social groups based on tendencies and behaviors. Apes are said to have invented words and use these to communicate. Chimps, gorillas, and orangutans have strong language capabilities as well.

5. Capuchin Monkeys- One Of The Smartest New World Monkey Species:

These monkeys belong to the New World Monkey clan. They are used in TV shows and movies. These little critters are called “organ-grinders.” Found in South America and parts of Central America, Capuchins typically display brown, black, or a buff pelage. Each species has variations of these colors. Their tails can be as long as their bodies and the length varies from 30 to 50 cm. Their diet is comprised of leaves, seed sugar cane, mollusks and in some cases other primates. They display certain interesting skills such as catching frogs. They live near water and like to feed on shellfish and crabs.

6. Where Do Spider Monkeys Get Their Names From?

Spider monkeys are New World monkeys found in Mexico, Brazil, and South America. Two spider monkey species are critically endangered; the black-headed spider monkey, and the brown spider monkey. These monkeys have limbs, which are disproportionate to their bodies, and their prehensile tails are what have given these creatures their name. They live in the high canopy and rainforests. Spider monkeys eat flowers, insects, and leaves. But, primarily, they stick to fruits. They are quite large and live in troops of around 35 individuals. Spider monkeys produce sounds when threatened, which sound like barks. They are also known to make horse-like sounds.

7. Proboscis – The Long-Nosed Monkey:

Proboscis is typically known as the long-nosed monkey. Its nose has a reddish brown color, and the species is endemic to the island of Borneo. This species co-exists with the Bornean orangutan but is more obvious because of its peculiar nose. They are a large species native to Asia. Sexual dimorphism is significant in these monkeys. The length of a male body can range anywhere between 66 and 76 cm whereas the females come in lengths that measure between 3 and 62 cm. The length of the male nose can exceed 10.2 cm! The fur on the back is brick red, yellowish brown, or orange. These monkeys have webbed toes. Both sexes have a bulging stomach, which looks like a pot belly!

8. Titi Monkeys:

Another one of the New World Monkeys, Titis are found in parts of South America. They are a rare species, and their length varies from 23 to 46 cm. They have soft fur, which is usually gray, black or red. Their underbelly is lighter-colored than the rest of the body. And, their tails aren’t prehensile. Titi monkeys live in places close to water, such as dense forests. Titis are diurnal as well as arboreal and can swing from branch to branch effortlessly. Family groups can have a maximum of seven animals altogether. Being highly territorial, these guys can defend their territories just by shouting and chasing intruders. Titis are monogamous and are known to mate all through their lives.

9. Cotton-Top Tamarins:

Found in the northwestern parts of Colombia, cotton-top tamarins are squirrel-sized primates. They get their name from the tuft of fur visible on their heads. They have been listed as an endangered species due to illegal pet trade and destruction of their habitat. Typically the tamarins live in groups comprising two to fourteen members. To protect themselves from predators, they sleep up in trees. They fall prey to snakes and hawks. They are constantly on the lookout and there always is one tamarin that keeps watch, while the others continue with their activities. As is the case with most animals that live in troops, only the dominant male and female reproduce.

10. Celebes Crested Macaque:

Another critically endangered species is the Celebes crested macaque. It is found in the wild and is endemic to Indonesia. Sometimes it is mistaken for an ape, but it is a prime member of the monkey family. What marks this species from the rest is the hair on top of its head which grows in a tuft. The entire body is black except for the rump which is pink in color. They live in groups of roughly five to twenty-five animals and forage most of the time. They are also known to eat frogs and caterpillars. These macaques mature at about 3 or 4 years. Although females stay with the group they were born to, mature males move on to find new groups.

11. Squirrel Monkeys:

Squirrel monkeys are one of the smallest members of the primate group. They are found in regions of Central and South America. There are five species of Squirrel monkeys, and they can be found in wetlands, marshes, and rain forests. The main threat to these monkeys is habitat loss. They constantly invade plantations due to their continually-shrinking territories and increasing agricultural lands. To prevent damage to crops, farmers usually kill squirrel monkeys. Squirrel monkey males are larger than females. Their bodies are covered with fur that is gray or olive in color, and their faces are white. They spend 99 percent of their lives in the trees. The long tails of squirrel monkeys are not prehensile but provide balance when the monkeys swing from tree to tree.

12. Food Matters:

If there is the dearth of food in a monkey troop, the females refrain from mating until conditions are more favorable. Females give birth once every two years. Many confrontations might occur in a social group, and predictably, the males are involved more than the females. These confrontations occur over mating issues and fights. There is one female who is in control. It’s her decision which prevails when it comes to which monkeys should stay and which ones should leave. If a monkey is stressed due to lack of shelter or food, it will likely be on the edge. It then becomes harder for them to keep conflicts at bay. And, monkeys are more likely to live harmoniously when food is aplenty.

13. Meet Kanzi:

Monkeys display aggression and combative intent by grinning or pulling their lips. Monkeys also yawn, bob their heads and jerk their shoulders forward. And, on that note meet Kanzi, a 31-year-old bonobo. He can do way more than just catching his prey. This guy here uses tools to cook his food. He can roast marshmallows as well as hamburgers on a pan. Kanzi can also light a fire. Your little one will go, “how does he do it?” Well, pretty much the same way you and I would. He sets out into the woods, collects what he needs and uses a match to light the fire. Of course, you must give him the matches. And, Kanzi was taught how to use these tools by scientists. And, after a few minor hitches, he has adapted well, and now takes every caution to avoid getting burnt.

14. Money Matters:

This one is bound to wow you. Seven monkeys in Connecticut have mastered the concept of money. A few months is all it took to teach these monkeys how money could buy them grapes or apples. The monkeys eventually caught on to this and were given tokens that they could use to their best knowledge. The monkeys were given a few tokens and were asked to use it wisely. So, instead of using a single token to buy an Apple, they would use it to buy two cubes of Jello. This made Jello sell like crazy among these animals. Economical critters, monkeys are. They almost always opted for the cheaper food option, which they could buy more.

15. Gambling:

Here is another experiment, which sounds a lot more like Vegas and not so much like science. So instead of playing it simple, with just money and grapes, the scientists decided to up the ante. So, they set up two identical games with a slight tweak. One appeared negative and the other, positive. In game number one, the monkey was given a grape. A coin was then flipped, and if the monkey won, he received another grape. Now, if he lost, he could keep just one grape. In game number two, each monkey had two grapes. If he wins, he gets to keep both. If he loses, he gets to keep one. Researchers found that the monkeys liked the game where they won a grape instead of the one where they lost one.

16. Love, Love Me Do:

Now when monkeys make up to each other, they really do take it literally. That’s because monkeys make peace with each other by grooming each other. They have a rather complex social system and monkeys establish individual relations. When they meet someone they’ve met before, they recall their past interactions. Old rivals might treat each other with rage when they bump into each other. Sometimes, aggressive encounters can be fatal. For reasons unknown to even science, monkeys never forget someone who helped them. Grooming is a sign of love and affection. If you want a monkey to fight on your side, all you have to do is build a lasting friendship with it. Monkeys also cuddle sometimes.

17. Howler Monkeys:

Howler Monkeys, like their name indicates, are the loudest monkeys in the world. Their howls can be heard almost three whole miles away in open areas and roughly about two miles in a forest. Howlers belong to the larger group of monkeys and are one of the only monkeys to build nests. 15 subspecies of Howlers have been discovered. And, these species typically live in South and Central American forests. Human poaching and habitat destruction are the major threats to these monkeys. They move quadrupedally on tree tops and grasp a branch with two hands or one hand and the tail. Their prehensile tails provide balance and support. Adult monkeys usually don’t rely too much on their tails, but juveniles tend to use their tails..

18. Cold Bites:

Did you know that a monkey cannot catch a cold? Lucky isn’t it? Well, orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees all catch colds. But, monkeys are cleanliness freaks and get their fur cleaned by the barber monkey in their troop. The barber’s payment are the bugs it finds in its customers’ hair. A small number of species carry viruses. The virus does little or close to no damage at all. Whatever disease the intestine harbors, is shared by every member of the family. However, monkeys are prone to sudden mood swings, especially in those with identity issues.

19. Primates:

All primates exhibit six features: eye sockets, nails, large brains, grasping hands, fingerprints, and forward facing eyes. There are somewhere around 190 to 350 primates known to man. They range in size from 2 ounces, that is the pygmy mouse lemur, to the gorilla, which weighs over 450 pounds. Humans share a few traits with other primates. All primates have a collarbone or clavicle. Primates have a tendency to sit or stand erect. And, this trait is shared by the quadrupedal ones as well. Some species also exhibit bipedalism, or the ability to stand on two hind legs like humans do. A unique feature of primates is their brains. The regions of the brain responsible for hand-eye coordination and stereoscopic vision are quite larger compared to other mammals.

20. Sneaky Little Ones:

We aren’t the only mammals who tell lies. Monkeys too, do their fair share of lying. At some point when a leader finds a treat such as an egg, he would yell something indicating a threat such as “Tiger”,”Snake”, or “Danger.” As the other hunters retreat to take shelter, the leader has just bought himself some time to finish the treat all by himself. When hunting, monkeys work in groups. The leader scouts for food while the others keep watch. Monkeys are funny by nature and are curious and adventurous little animals. There is a wide range of species, and they make great little science projects for those interested in how monkeys evolved into humans.

21. Baboons:

Baboons share 91 percent similar DNA with humans. This monkey is sometimes mistaken for an Ape. There are five different species of Baboons known, and they all belong to the Old World Monkey group. These are the largest of all primates barring humans. They weigh around 90 pounds, and the younger, smaller ones weigh around 30 pounds. Males are around 10 pounds heavier than females, so it’s quite simple to tell the difference between the two. Baboons have a dog-like muzzle and heavy, powerful jaws. Their jaws consist of sharp canine teeth. They have short tails and protruding buttocks.

22. Blue Monkey:

Blue Monkeys are unique, but the name can be deceptive. They aren’t blue; that’s for sure. They belong to the Old Monkey World. The hair on their faces is very scarce, which gives them a slightly blue color. Blue Monkeys have an olive colored body with patches of black and white. The upper part of the head is darker than the body. The olive color appears gray during some times of the year, to fit its surroundings. The social structure of these creatures comprises mainly of females. This is because males leave once they mature. So, only one dominant male lives within the troop.

23. Religious Ties:

The Monkey is an essential part of Buddhism as well as Hinduism. Monkeys serve as a reminder of the problems that can occur if religion isn’t followed the way it should. Monkeys and the Indian culture have been linked to each other 500 BC. The most popular Hindu God is Hanuman, who is an incarnation of one of the famed Tridev Shiva. Hanuman is held in reverence for bravery, devotion, and dedication. Both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata depict Hanuman’s heroics.

Buddhism is also known for its Monkey lore. The Monkey appears in Chinese zodiacal beliefs. The Monkey is worshiped as the “Great-Sage”. The Monkey God Festival is celebrated in Hong Kong as well as China..

24. Relaxing Massages:

Monkeys love to be massaged, but rubbing them the wrong way could spell trouble for you. This builds trust and bonding among the members of the troop. Monkeys groom each other in times of boredom, and this is known to reduce their levels of stress. Once relaxed with a soothing massage or grooming session, they have been observed to sleep for longer periods. Crab-Eating Macaques groom females to lure them to mate. Vervet monkey siblings often compete for grooming attention from their mothers.

25. Intelligence Quotient:

Monkeys exhibit an IQ of 174. It is said that making eye contact with a monkey for more than four seconds is not advisable. A monkey IQ test has been created by a bunch of scientists. In most tasks, monkeys end up in groups that range from average, above average, and below average. In one test, animals had to cross a barrier to getting a raisin placed in front of them. The barrier, however, covered the raisin. The smartest monkeys quickly realized the trick and went straight for the raisin. Quite the overachievers, we’d say!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can monkeys swim?

Yes, some monkeys, such as the Proboscis monkey with webbed feet, can paddle across waters fast enough to escape predators (1) (2).

2. Can monkeys see in the dark?

The night owl monkey is nocturnal and can see in the dark. They have large eyes that allow maximum light to enter and thus provide visuals (1).

There are many monkey facts for kids to learn, such as the different species of monkeys, ranging from the smallest Pygmy Marmoset to the largest Mandrill (the largest one). You can also tell your children intriguing facts about apes, spider monkeys, Proboscis, Cotton-Top Tamarins, Baboons, and other animals, including their life spans, habitats, and other specifics. There is also some interesting information regarding their IQ, as well as various experiments on their gambling behaviors, cold bites, and other subjects. Sharing these facts may ignite your child’s interest in learning more about these fascinating creatures.


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