The white-headed capuchin is a monkey native to the forests of Central America and north-western South America. They are one of the smartest monkeys in the world.
Due to their high intelligence, these monkeys can be trained for film and TV productions. They have become particularly popular due to their appearance in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, or roles such as "Marcel" on the television series Friends. Their intelligence goes beyond acting, they have also been trained to assist paraplegics.
In the wild, they are very versatile. They live in many different types of forest, and eat many different types of food, including fruit, other plant material, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. They use tools, including rubbing plants over its body in an apparent use of herbal medicine, and also using tools as weapons and for getting to food. They find food by stripping bark off of trees, searching through leaf litter, breaking dead tree branches, rolling over rocks, and using stones as anvils to crack hard fruits.
They also use tools in other ways. They have been known to beat snakes with sticks in order to protect themselves or to get the snake to release an infant. In captivity, They use tools to get to food or to defend themselves. In one case a white-headed capuchin threw a squirrel monkey at a human observer! They use trees or other hard surfaces as anvils to crack things open, and sometimes use sticks as probes to explore openings.
Some populations have unique characteristics, such as the white-headed capuchins found in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. These monkeys are noted for hunting squirrels, magpies, white-crowned parrots, and baby coatis. Their diet varies greatly throughout the year. During the early rainy season, they eat a wide variety of fruits as well as caterpillars. During the dry season, only figs and a few other types of fruit are available, and chitinous insects, ant and wasp larvae, and vertebrates become a particularly important part of their diet.
They also live long lives, with a maximum recorded age of over 54 years.
This monkey was found alone in a simple cage in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, to be photographed by passing tourists.