Elusive Saki Monkey Spotted For First Time In 81 Years

"It was fantastic," said expedition leader Laura Marsh. "I was trembling and so excited I could barely take a picture."

Saki Monkey

Christina Selby/Biographic

Pictures and video footage captured by researchers show the shy Vanzolini bald-faced saki monkey, a species of monkey that has eluded humans since it was last spotted in 1936.

National Geographic reports that a team led by Laura Marsh, the director of the Global Conservation Institute and an expert on saki monkeys, who identified five new species of saki on a different expedition in 2014.

Early this summer, Marsh and her team sought out to find the Vanzolini saki monkey, whose scientific name is Pithecia vanzolinii, in the Amazon forest on the border between Brazil and Peru. Marsh and her team of scientists, photographers, conservationists, and local guides sailed down the Eiru River in a two-story houseboat on the trail of this elusive primate.

It was on this river that Marsh first spotted the Vanzolini saki.

“It was fantastic,” she said in an interview with National Geographic. “I was trembling and so excited I could barely take a picture.”

Marsh observed the animal, while her photographers snatched footage and pictures of the creature.

This observation of the monkey will aid Marsh in deciding the conservation and population status of the species for her organization. Due to increased hunting in the region, Marsh believes she will likely classify the Vanzolini saki as threatened.

The Vanzolini saki was first observed by Ecuadorian naturalist Alfonso Ollala in 1936. He observed the monkey’s gold colored legs and the bowl cut like tuft of hair on its head.

Unlike many New World monkeys, the Vanzolini saki monkey does not have a prehensile tail and leaps across tree tops in a “cat-like” manner. The monkey was named after Brazilian zoologist Paulo Vanzolini.

Vanzolini Baldfaced Saki Walking

Christina Selby/Biographic

This rare monkey has not been seen alive since this initial siting, and these photographic images are the first ever captured of it. With increased knowledge of this monkey, we can greater help preserve its habitat, as it becomes more and more threatened by humans.


Next, learn about Jigokudani Monkey Park a nature preserve in Japan where snow monkeys lounge in hot springs. Then check out these one-of-a-kind pictures from Thailand’s monkey buffet festival.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.
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