Although there are over 260 species of monkeys in the world, they can be divided into two distinct subgroups. The ones termed as Old World monkeys live in Asia and Africa, whilst New World monkeys are in the South and Central Americas. Monkeys are distinct from apes like orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees, who are classified as primates.   The smallest monkeys are the pygmy marmoset which can fit into a person’s hand while the largest monkey is the mandril with adult males tipping the scale at 35 kg.

Monkeys are social animals and either live on the ground or in the trees. To bond, they practice grooming, where they clean and pick parasites from each other fur. Monkeys used facial expressions such as baring their teeth, pulling their lip and head bobbing to indicate aggression. They are intelligent animals, with some species using tools/ Capuchins have been recorded as using sticks to burrow for food and using a hammer and anvil method to extract morsels from hard-shelled nuts and oysters.

As a species, they are highly adaptable. The Japanese macaques adapted to the cold temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius, taking baths in the warm springs for warming up and for social gatherings. Monkeys around tourists attractions are very quick to get savvy about feeding times. However, the population of certain species of monkeys are dwindling due to the loss of habitat, the trade in live exotic pets and the use in some traditional medicine and remedies.

The relationship between human and monkeys is a long, complicated one. In certain cultures, monkeys are revered. Hindus worship ‘Hanuman’, a monkey god that commands a large army. The first monkey in space was Albert, a rhesus macaque. He was sent into space in June 1949. Albert survived the space mission but died due to rocket parachute failure.   Perhaps the most interesting fact is that diseases can be spread between monkey to human. This includes ebola, yellow fever and tuberculosis.

December 14th is set aside as World Monkey date.