Aotus azarae



Scientific name: Aotus azarae

English names: Owl monkey, Azara’s night monkey, Southern night monkey

Spanish and local names: Mono nocturno, mico de noche, niru niru

Size: 341mm (13.4 in)

Weight: 1.18kg (32 ounces)

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Aotidae



The night monkey’s genus name aotus means “earless”. The species name azarae means Azara’s and was named after the Spanish naturalist Félix de Azara. The common names night monkey and owl monkey describe its primary biological adaptation: seeing well at night.


Azara’s night monkeys are most notorious for their large brown eyes, used for seeing at night. They have grey soft fur that covers their upper side of their body and a yellow-tan coloured fur that covers the bottom side, up to their neck. The fur on top and below their eyes is bright-white coloured, and on the upper side of their eyes it has a black line that divides the white markings which gives this specific species an even greater owl look, in comparison to other species of night monkeys that do not have this colour feature. Owl monkeys are small and light-weight and have long semi-prehensile tails.

Habitat & Range

Image taken from wikipedia

It is believed that current taxonomy does not provide a true image of the diversity of the genus aotus. There is some debate as wether some species are subspecies or species of their own. The subspecies aotus azarae boliviensis occurs south of the Rio Madre de Dios, as far west as the Rio Inambari in Peru, extending along the eastern cordillera to the south where it meets the range of the aotus azarae azarae in the region of Bañados de Izozog. To the east it occurs as far as the Río Guapore and the border of Brazil.

Night monkeys are arboreal and normally occur in primary and secondary forests, as well as selectively logged forests, seasonally flooded and terra firma, lowland forest, and submontane and montane (cloud forests). Aotus a. boliviensis is found in semi-deciduous and evergreen lowland forests in Bolivia and up to at least 1,250 m in some parts of the Andes.

Life & Behaviour

Owl monkeys are adapted to night. They have traded color vision for better night vision, their eyesight is monochromatic. Their behaviour is strictly nocturnal; they sleep during the day and are active at night, except the subspecies aotus azarae azarae which is active during both. Being active at night allows them to have no competition from other monkeys. They are frugivores, meaning they eat fruits, but can also eat flowers, leaves, nectar, seeds and insects.

Night monkeys have a wide display of sounds with which they communicate at night, as well as complex scent marking to communicate with potential mates. Many of the sounds they make are used to warn other groups to stay away, as they are very territorial. Owl monkeys are monogamous, they stay with their mate for life and live in small family groups composed of the adult mother and father and the offspring. Both mother and father take care of their juvenile, meaning the male monkey also carries the babies. Owl monkeys can prayed on by wild cats, birds and snakes.

Culture and mythology

Night monkeys are considered by many native groups in Central and South America to be a magical type of being with diabolical features. The Tacana of the Madidi region in Bolivia believe that when you go hunting at night, you must avoid replying to the sounds that these monkeys make (natives tend to imitate many animal sounds). If you do so, they will get angry, come to you and transform themselves into devilish creatures, multiplying into large numbers and possibly devouring you. Many night hunters that did not return from their nocturnal endeavour are believed to have fallen prey to this event.

Conservation & Threats

Night monkeys are threatened by the loss of their natural habitat, which is primary rainforests. Though not the preferred species for wildlife pet trade, a few night monkeys end up being victims of this cruel practice. Their population trend is decreasing though they are listed as Least Concern (LC) since their numbers are still abundant.

View conservation assessment on this species


PARTY ALL NIGHT- Night monkeys are amongst the only nocturnal primates in the world. They are active at night and sleep during the day.

GOOD GUYS- Owl monkeys are monogamous, meaning they only have one partner in life. Male owl monkeys will carry babies and take care of them just like the mother.

MOONSTRUCK- Owl monkeys are more active in nights with moonlight. At nights when there is none, they tend to be less active.

COLOR BLIND- Owl monkeys have traded color vision for night vision. They are monochromatic and cannot see colors.

Owl monkeys at La Senda Verde

Currently we have five owl monkeys living with us, three females and one male. They live in their own enclosure in the monkey area and need to be kept separated from other species of monkeys because otherwise the others would hurt them.

The Story of Tunita

Tunita is a night monkey that arrived on December 2016. By then we had known about her existence in the amazon city of Cobija, Pando where she was illegally kept as a pet in the premises of a chinese industrial company. We had tried several times to tell the authorities so they would rescue the animal, but it was in vain, the chinese did not want to turn in the monkey and the authorities did not want to take authority. Finally, after a lot of pressure, the animal was released and rehabilitated at La Senda Verde.

We found out about the monkey through Ericka, a teacher at the local state university, the Universidad Amazónica de Pando, at Cobija. She told us that she was once in a plane to Cobija when she sat next to one of the chinese workers. He then showed her a video where you could see how the baby monkey was temporarily released from her cage to see how she would run away, get lost and cry in desperation. The workers would do this repeatedly as a way of entertainment.

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