In the heart of the Peruvian cloud forest, one of the rarest monkeys alive
June 6, 2017
Just 1,000 or so yellow-tailed woolly monkeys still survive in remote patches of forest in the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru.
Seeing this monkeys is another must in the region that is also home to the Gocta waterfalls, one of the highest in the world, and the vast pre-Inca citadel of Kuélap.
With some 40 species of monkeys in the wild, Peru has some of the greatest primate diversity of any nation on earth. Most of those animals live in the heat of the lowland Amazonian jungle. But one, the utterly beautiful and extremely rare yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda), generally lives in much cooler climes, in the highest parts of Peru’s damp northern cloud forests at altitudes of between 5,000ft and 9,000ft. This monkey, which is actually a magnificent mahogany color, other than for a bright tuft in its nether regions, is so rare in fact that there are just 1,000 left and it is officially classed as “critically endangered”.
The monkey has an interesting backstory. The first Westerner to come across it was the great German explorer Alexander von Humboldt, back in the early 19th Century. He didn’t actually see a live specimen, but instead marveled at a beautiful saddlecloth made from a mysterious, extremely soft and thick mahogany fur. For most of the 20th Century, the yellow-tailed woolly monkey was actually thought to have gone extinct. That was until the 1970s when an expedition led by American primatologist Russ Mittermeier rediscovered it. Mittermeier eventually went on to direct Conservation International, one of the world’s largest environmental groups.
In the verdant, precipitous region of Chachapoyas, in northern Peru, which is also home to the stunning 2,000ft-high Gocta waterfall and the pre-Inca mountain-top fortress of Kuélap, there is now a 5,600-acre natural protected area, the Hierba Buena-Allpayacu Community Conservation Area, dedicated specifically to protecting the yellow-tailed woolly monkey. It was founded with the support of Mittermeier, but also Fanny Cornejo, one of a tiny number of Peruvian primatologists. The local community, of Corosha, also now receives visitors and can organize hikes into the cloud forest to see the monkeys, who are often more active and playful than some other primate species. We will warn you now, though, that the walk is not easy. You will likely have to start before dawn, and the paths will be steep and muddy. But if you are interested, just let us know and we can arrange it.
To include the Chachapoyas trek as part of your unique, individually tailored Peru itinerary, contact the Peru Empire Company at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +51-1-700-5100 or, if you are in the US, 347-713-7030/34.