Capuchins’ repellent trick

DZG’s capuchin monkeys have a nifty trick to ward off pesky flies by using spring onions!


The critically endangered primates use the vegetables as an insect repellent, by rubbing them all over their bodies.

Upper Primates Section Leader, Pat Stevens – pictured above – said: “Fur rubbing with pungent smelling materials is a natural behaviour for capuchins, which they use as an insect repellent and also as an antiseptic to improve any skin wounds.

“In the wild they would use plants such as citrus, clematis and piper, which are known to have medicinal benefits, but here at DZG we give our capuchins spring onions which they use in the exact same way.”

When given a bundle of onions, males Willow, Spot and Dougal, as well as females Dinya and Holly immediately tear each one in half and rub the substance all over their bodies, legs, back, tail and under their arms


Pat added: “It is a very comical activity to watch them doing, as they don’t waste any time and rub themselves all over extremely quickly – even baby Ted was rubbed over by mum, Dinya, but the onion odour can get very overpowering when they’re all doing it together!”

Fur rubbing can also help reinforce social bonds in capuchin groups, as well as establishing a group scent.