Need a dose of cute today? Take a moment to learn 10 fun facts about the monito del monte from one of our GAAP staff members, Paula Marín, a veterinarian, as well as an avid lover and former researcher of this precious creature!
10 Reasons to Love the Monito del Monte
1. One cute animal, many names. Monito del monte literally translates to “little monkey of the mount.” In Mapudungún (the language of the Mapuche, a group of indigenous people in Chile), they are called “chimaihuén”.
2. The monito del monte is not a rodent (although it appears to be), but rather one of 4 species of marsupial that exists in Chile. They are often confused with opossums, which don’t actually exist in Chile. They have a marsupial pouch in which they can raise up to 4 babies per litter.
3. They fit in the palm of your hand. They weigh between 20 and 25 grams (less than one ounce!) and measure between 10-12 cm (4-4.7 inches). All of this adds up to them being the perfect balance of tiny and adorable!
4. The pocket-sized creature is often called a “living fossil” as it is the only living member of Microbiotheria, an otherwise extinct order.
5. They’re from the land down under! There is evidence to suggest the monito del monte, is of Australian (and not American) ancestry, unlike the other Chilean marsupials, which supports the theory of a single great continent (Pangea).
6. Hangs from tail, skilled climber, opposable thumbs… That must be where it got it’s “monkey” (monito) name!
7. Yum! They feast on insects, fruits, and occasionally bird eggs.
8. Less “yum”, but still important… The monito del monte is considered to be an important disperser of seeds since by eating fruit and subsequently defecating the seeds, they allow the propagation of native plant species.
9. Expert sleepers who love to cuddle! Don’t be surprised if those big eyes are closed, catching some zzz’s. The monito del monte is nocturnal, and it also enters a superficial state of hibernation during the winter called torpor. To prepare, they store fat in their tails (which increase significantly in size), find or make a nest, get together with their best “little monkey” friends, and cuddle up together for warmth. During torpor, they curl up into a tiny, ridiculously cute ball.
10. Hard to find, easy to love. Native only to the temperate rain forests of Chile and Argentina, the monito del monte is rare. We are so honored to say they have a home in the portion of land we protect through the GAAP’s Nature Discovery Center.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this special and endearing species. Sadly, their habitats are being segmented and destroyed at alarming rates, so much so that they’ve been categorized as “near threatened” by the IUCN. We hope to continue adding to the ways we support their survival, thanks to the generosity of our donors and sponsors.