National Geographic : 1987 Mar
ORD OF THE TREES, a large male muriqui feeds on a monstera plant (right). Adult males can weigh nearly 35 pounds and measure five feet long, including the tail. Leaves, fruit, and flowers make up most of the animal's diet. A portrait of a juvenile (left) shows the dark face characteristic of youngsters; the skin of some muriquis becomes mottled with age. The muriqui's tail is pre hensile, with a tough pad of skin underneath at the end. A juvenile uses this "fifth hand" to hang upside down while at play (left). All the muriquis shown in this article live in one of the most important remaining fragments of their habitat, a four-square-mile private coffee plantation called Fazenda Montes Claros (map, above left). Its owner has protected the monkeys for about 40 years, but it is uncertain whether his children will continue the tradition, and efforts topurchase the land for a government reserve have not been successful. Montes Claros is home to about 50 muriquis. They and all the other remaining populations are isolated from one another, with no gene flow among them, and all are surrounded by development and deforested land. Hunting remains a threat, a tradition that lives on from the days of Brazil's earliest explorers. At times, some lived almost entirely on muriqui meat. Survey work continues in an effort to locate other muri qui populations that might be hanging on elsewhere in the region. There is no safety valve against extinction, because the animal has never bred in captivity.