Nail-biting moment camera team witness endangered spider monkey giving birth in the wild for first time ever… which almost ends in tragedy

Conservationists unveiled the first-ever video of a critically endangered baby spider monkey being born in the wild — a brown-headed boy that they have named Anku.

The newborn spider monkey came into the world high in the jungle canopy of the Chocó, a tropical forest along northwestern Ecuador, on January 22 of this year. 

The co-founders of the conservation group who obtained the historic video said that Anku hung perilously about 50 feet from the ground for the first nail-biting moments of his life, dangling by just his umbilical cord.

The team feared the baby might fall to his death. ‘Fortunately it didn’t happen,’ one said. ‘Unbelievable, in the end.’ 

Conservationists unveiled the first-ever video of a critically endangered baby spider monkey being born in the wild,  a brown-headed boy that they have named Anku. They said Anku hung 50 feet above the ground for the first nail-biting moments of his life - by just his umbilical cord

Conservationists unveiled the first-ever video of a critically endangered baby spider monkey being born in the wild,  a brown-headed boy that they have named Anku. They said Anku hung 50 feet above the ground for the first nail-biting moments of his life – by just his umbilical cord

Eyewitnesses to the birth of an endangered spider monkey are rare, in part, because the species typically delivers its young at night, according to conservationist Felipe Alfonso-Cortes, co-founder of the group Proyecto Washu which released the tape.

Wildlife biologists with Proyecto Washu, in fact, had never seen a live spider monkey birth before — despite having studied the species in Ecuador for the past 10 years. 

The brown-headed spider monkey is one of the top 25 most endangered primates on planet Earth, according to the group.

Eyewitnesses to the birth of an endangered spider monkey are rare, in part, because the species typically delivers its young at night, according to conservationist Felipe Alfonso-Cortes (left), co-founder of the group Proyecto Washu which released the rare tape

Eyewitnesses to the birth of an endangered spider monkey are rare, in part, because the species typically delivers its young at night, according to conservationist Felipe Alfonso-Cortes (left), co-founder of the group Proyecto Washu which released the rare tape

The monkey’s habitat, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, extends from western Panama to the western border of Colombia and northwest Ecuador. 

But all along these regions of Latin America, according to the vice president of wildlife care at the San Diego Zoo, Greg Vicino, these spider monkeys are being crowded out of their homes by human activity. 

Spider monkeys are what are known as ‘boreal primates,’ Alfonso-Cortes told ABC News, who first broadcast the video, meaning that they need a safe perch high in the trees to survive.

‘They do not come down to the ground,’ as Vicino of the San Diego Zoo put it. 

‘That’s where the jaguars are.’

Wildlife biologists with Proyecto Washu had never seen a live spider monkey birth before, despite having studied the species in Ecuador for the past 10 years. The brown-headed spider monkey is one of the top 25 most endangered primates on planet Earth, the group said

Wildlife biologists with Proyecto Washu had never seen a live spider monkey birth before, despite having studied the species in Ecuador for the past 10 years. The brown-headed spider monkey is one of the top 25 most endangered primates on planet Earth, the group said

Proyecto Washu's Alfonso-Cortes, a biologist and project coodinator, noted that baby Anku's birth came as a bit of a surprise because his mother, Arawi (above), is estimated to be 25 ¿ or 'really old' for a spider monkey

Arawi had also not had a baby for the past eight years, Alfonso-Cortes said

Proyecto Washu’s Alfonso-Cortes, a biologist and project coodinator, noted that baby Anku’s birth came as a bit of a surprise because his mother, Arawi (above), is estimated to be 25 — or ‘really old’ for a spider monkey. Arawi had also not had a baby for the past eight years, he noted

Habitat loss, in the form of widespread deforestation for cattle grazing and for sprawling plantations growing cash crops like palm oil are driving the species to extinction, both researchers believe.

But other factors unique to the brown-headed spider monkey have exacerbated the issue, according to Alfonso-Cortes, particularly the primate’s long average lifespan and the lengthy period it takes for them to nurture and raise their young.

A pregnant brown-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps) typically needs more than seven months before childbirth — and, once born, a young spider monkey can require nursing for up to four years.

And those long four years, the researcher said, are unlikely to involve another new pregnancy, delaying efforts to boost the endangered monkey’s numbers. 

It will often take at least that long for the next pregnancy to occur. 

Another factor contributing to the spider monkey’s dwindling population is the species long lifespan, which means elder monkeys and younger fighting for shrinking living space in those jungle canopies. 

Each brown-headed spider monkey can live for approximately 15 to 20 years. 

Spider monkeys are what are known as 'boreal primates,' conservation biologists said, meaning that they need a safe perch high in the jungle treetops to survive

Spider monkeys are what are known as ‘boreal primates,’ conservation biologists said, meaning that they need a safe perch high in the jungle treetops to survive

Another factor contributing to the spider monkey's dwindling population is the species' long lifespan - which means elder and younger monkeys fighting for shrinking living space in those jungle canopies. Each brown-headed spider monkey can live for approximately 15 to 20 years

Another factor contributing to the spider monkey’s dwindling population is the species’ long lifespan – which means elder and younger monkeys fighting for shrinking living space in those jungle canopies. Each brown-headed spider monkey can live for approximately 15 to 20 years

Proyecto Washu’s Alfonso-Cortes, a biologist and project coodinator, noted that baby Anku’s birth came as a bit of a surprise because his mother, Arawi, is estimated to be 25 — or ‘really old’ for a spider monkey.  

Arawi had also not had a baby for the past eight years, Alfonso-Cortes said. 

Anku could potentially find himself with a young friend, according to Alfonso-Cortes fellow co-founder and colleague Nathalia Fuentes: Another female spider monkey, Anna, gave birth on this past Saturday, but she has been much more camera shy.

‘Local organizations like Proyecto Washu are nothing less than essential to tackling some of the toughest conservation issues of the day — from climate change to habitat restoration,’ JG Collomb, the CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Network, which has partnered with Proyecto Washu, told ABC News.

‘The unlikely birth of Anku is a landmark achievement for the brown-headed spider monkey, highlighting the power of community-based conservation,’ Collomb said. 

The community-based conservation efforts surrounding the brown-headed spider monkey can be very culturally sensitive, according to Vicino at the San Diego Zoo.

While illegal wildlife traders are a threat to these endangered spider monkeys that can be tackled by law enforcement, local indigenous communities are allowed to hunt and eat the primates which have been a traditional part of their diet.

The balance, according to Vicino, will come from protecting and respecting both these critically endangered species and the local population’s way of life. 

In other words, as he put it, ‘How do we develop programs that allow people to live in these places and still have sustainable use of of the resources that are there without depleting them?’

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