The Brandywine Zoo has two white-faced saki monkeys: Gandalf (DOB 4/10/14), named for the island Tobago, and Bonnie (DOB 7/19/07), named from ruber, their Latin genus name. Bonnie was born at The Philadelphia Zoo, but later moved to the Bronx Zoo in April 2005 on a breeding recommendation. There, she gave birth to Gandalf. Both came to the Brandywine Zoo in July 2020. You can find them living in our South American primate habitat, which they currently share with our golden lion tamarins!
Tropical rainforests, living in the middle to lower to mid-canopy level of the forest (rarely walking on the ground).
GEOGRAPHIC REGION AND RANGE
Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela
Carnivore – crayfish, crabs, insects, frogs, fish, mollusks
Dimorphic (males and females look different) – males are black with white faces, females are grey. Their distinctive white facial discs give them their name.
11-19 inches (28-48 cm), tail length, 10-22 inches (25-56 cm)
About 3-4 lbs (1.4-1.8 Kgs)
Wild: 15 years
Under Human Care: mid-thirties
This species is not well researched in the wild. The biggest threat to saki right now is habitat loss. As rainforests are being cut down to make way for roads, farms, and buildings, all of the animals that live there are losing their homes. Their remote habitat locations make them difficult to study in their native range, which makes accurate population numbers a challenge to collect. Other threats include hunting and the pet trade.
Least Concern though its population numbers are unknown
• Gestation lasts about 5 months, and usually one infant is born.
• Moms carry their babies on their hips for the first month, and then their backs. Dads help care for infants after about 6 weeks. Young sakis are independent at about 6 months.
They are very quick when moving through the trees, leap between branches. This has earned them the nickname “flying monkeys.” These great leaps aid in predator avoidance.
• They live in small groups of just 2-4 individuals.
• They socialize by grooming each other.
• Groups stay in touch in the canopy with chirping sounds.
• They vocalize in grunts, chirps, whistles, and low calls, but are generally a quiet species. One source noted that their exceptional quietness and ability to sneak away from field researchers has been one of the reasons they are so challenging to study in the wild.
• Their throats are almost naked, which makes it easier to scent mark trees using the oils secreted from the gular gland, located on their throats.
Their lower front teeth are specialized for opening nuts and tough fruits. This helps them get to the nutritious seeds hidden within.
Their thick tails are not prehensile, meaning that they don’t wrap or grip like some other primates. Instead their tails are used for balance while jumping through the trees.
Saki monkeys do not grasp tree branches between their index finger and thumb, as humans would. Instead, their grasp falls between the index finger and middle finger, so that 3 fingers are on one side and a finger and thumb on the other.
What are AZA Zoos doing for White-faced Saki?
Their zoo population is managed through conservation breeding programs called Species Survival Plan programs (SSP), which ensures genetic diversity and species health. Their SSP is coordinated by the New World Primate Taxon Advisory Group. The Como Park Zoo is the program leader for the white-faced saki. As of 2020, there were around 135 white-faced saki in AZA facilities.