Home Primates ABC Yellow-breasted capuchin


Their name gives you a clue: yellow-breasted capuchins have golden-yellow fur on their chest, belly and upper arms. They are medium-sized primates with round heads and strong bodies. They also have a strikingly long tail which they use a lot when they climb.


Yellow-breasted capuchins live in the Atlantic rainforests of Brazil (in South America).


Yellow-breasted capuchins are extremely social primates. They live in groups that vary in size from ten to thirty animals, including multiple males and females. These primates do not like sitting still. They are active from morning to night, doing all sorts of things including foraging.


Yellow-breasted capuchins use a variety of sounds to make things clear to each other, including growling and screeching. They also communicate with each other using facial expressions. Yellow-breasted capuchins are very clever primates. For example, they know how to use tools. They use stones as a kind of hammer and anvil to crack open nuts and they use sticks to catch small prey. Yellow-breasted capuchins also rub themselves with the leaves of strong-smelling plants. They do this to keep nasty insects at bay, like a kind of insect-repellent spray (DEET). At Apenheul there are fewer insects than in the wild. But we do give the yellow-breasted capuchins pieces of onion and garlic. This allows them to maintain their ritual of ‘applying’ repellents and to display this natural behaviour.


Yellow-breasted capuchins have one baby about once every two years. The other females in the group carry the offspring around sometimes too, enabling the mother to rest. The young suckle from their mothers for about six months. Females become ready to reproduce when they are about four years old. At this age, males leave the group they were born into. They go off and join other groups. Females remain in their natal groups.

Situation in the wild

The yellow-breasted capuchins’ habitat is endangered. In the past 50 years, 80% of the forests have disappeared due to logging. That is why there are only a few hundred yellow-breasted capuchins left in some small sections of forest on Brazil’s east coast. Yellow-breasted capuchins are among the rarest primates in South America. Partly for this reason, a committee was established in the 1980s to protect this remarkable species. Besides protecting these primates in the wild, a partnership was also set up between European zoos and the Brazilian government. Apenheul also participated in this initiative and it led to a European breeding programme for yellow-breasted capuchins.

At Apenheul

You will find the yellow-breasted capuchins in the squirrel monkey forest, where they have their own separate island.

Breeding programme

Apenheul is part of the EEP European breeding programme for yellow-breasted capuchins. By working together with international zoos, we ensure that genetically healthy populations of yellow-breasted capuchins are maintained in captivity.

Fun Facts

  • Capuchins and squirrel monkeys often mix in the wild. This enables them to detect common enemies more effectively and to flee more quickly from danger.
  • If you hear a soft ticking sound when you pass the yellow-breasted capuchins at Apenheul, chances are that they are banging nuts together to get the tasty snack out!