The uakari (also known as uacari) is the only American monkey with a short tail. The red uakari monkey, a subspecies of the bald uakari, have a bright, practically hairless, red face, but they sometimes exhibit a well developed beard. Bald uakaris range from red or orange through to white. The white uakari is the rarest and confined to a small area of north western Brazil. The black headed uakaris are visually distinct and have their arms, shoulders, and heads covered with black fur. The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve was created to protect the red uakari monkey in the Amazon.
Group Size and Threats
Uakaris are the most habitat restricted of all American primates and only live along small lakes and rivers. They normally occur in troops of 10 individuals, but can be seen in groups of 100 or more. Uakari monkeys are endangered by habitat destruction, hunting, and the pet trade.
Uakari or Uacari?
According to New Scientist magazine (April 22, 2006) the name uakari means nothing in any European language, which can account for the ambiguity over its spelling e.g. uacari. The correct pronounciation is even stranger, being “wuk-ah-ree”. The scientific name of Cacajao also means nothing in either Latin or Greek, a rarity for scientific nomenclature.
The Origin of the Name Uakari
The story of the name begins with 18th Century European explorers Alexander von Humbolt and Johann von Spix. When at a jesuit mission on the border of Brazil and Venezuela, Humbolt found the strange monkey that was unlike any he had seen. It’s local name was cacajao and so this is what Humbolt called it.
After 20 or so years, Spix obtained specimens of a similar monkey from the central Amazon and named it ouacary, after another local name. The tribes where the names orginated are now deceased and so we will never know their true meaning. Like the uakari, similar stories are behind other animal names like the aye-aye, the binturong, the cacomistle and the yapok. All of these names are from a local language now extinct. For more information on the Uakari you can see the primate fact sheet from the University of Wisonsin.