Home Primates ABC Northern talapoin


Talapoins, weighing 1-1.5 kg, are the smallest monkeys in Africa. They also have a relatively large head which makes them look like young animals. Their fur is a mix of yellowish, gray and olive green with a white belly. They also have a yellow beard and a small, gray nose.


In the wild, Northern talapoins are found in Gabon, Cameroon, Northwest Angola and a small part of the Republic of Congo. They live in lowland forests, swamps and mangrove forests and are never more than a few hundred meters from rivers or lakes.


In the wild, talapoins live in large groups of 60 to sometimes more than 100 individuals. Groups are made up of several adult males and often twice as many adult females with their young. Within the group, there are a number of dominant males who determine where the group goes during the day and act as watchmen at night. Talapoins often sleep near water. Sometimes they even sleep on branches that hang over the water so that they can jump into the water in case of danger. Females with young often sleep together in the center of the group.


Talapoins are diurnal (active during the day) and are very energetic. Young individuals in particular play a lot, but adult males may also be seen participating in bouts of play. During the day, individuals spend a lot of time foraging for food, especially fruits, seeds and insects. Foraging occurs in the morning and late afternoon with individuals forming same sex foraging groups. As with virtually all primates, communication is a very important and complex part of talapoin society. Grooming also plays a special role. Not only does it serve the purpose of keeping each other’s fur clean, it also helps maintain social relationships.


Births in Northern talapoins are seasonal and take place in the short, dry season from November to April. After a gestation period of about 5.5 months, one infant is born and most females give birth every year. At an age of three to four years, the females are sexually mature and their genital swelling is a clear signal to males that they are receptive to mating.


Northern talapoin populations are near threatened. Although this species tolerates a wide variety of habitat changes, their numbers are still declining. Due to the decline of larger mammal species due to overhunting, small mammal species, including talapoins, are now being hunted more frequently. Another threat to the Northern talapoin is the disappearance of their habitat. In densely populated areas, their habitat is being cleared to make way for agriculture.

At Apenheul

The northern talapoins can be found in the new free-range area of Apenheul! They share their habitat with the King Colobus monkeys and the African spurred tortoises. Nowhere else in the world can you see free-ranging talapoins!

 Population management program

Apenheul is part of the European population management program (EEP) for northern talapoins. By working with other international zoos, we maintain a genetically healthy and demographically stable population of this species in zoos that serves as a reserve population.

Fun facts

  • Talapoins are excellent swimmers! If they plunder a bee's nest that hangs above the water, the monkeys jump into the water to avoid being stung by the bees.
  • Talapoins are the smallest monkeys of the old world. The males weigh about 1.4 kg and the females weigh 1.1 kg.
  • Talapoins are also called 'the squirrel monkeys of Africa'. This is because they are about the same size as squirrel monkeys and have a similar group structure.