, Volume 60, Issue 6, pp 559–563 | Cite as

Anointing with commercial insect repellent by free-ranging Cebus capucinus in Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos, Costa Rica

  • Edilton R. SantosEmail author
  • Stephen F. Ferrari
  • Raone Beltrão-Mendes
  • Gustavo A. Gutiérrez-Espeleta
Original Article


Fur rubbing or anointing is a well known behavior in capuchin monkeys (Cebus and Sapajus), and may have medicinal and/or social functions. Observations of anointing in capuchins have recorded the application of substances derived from both plants (orange, onion, garlic, citronella, and lemongrass) and animals (ants and millipedes). The present study reports on anointing behavior in free-ranging white-headed capuchins, Cebus capucinus, which involved a commercial insect repellent. After looting a bottle of repellent from the bag of a visitor to the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, an adult male bit open the bottle and rubbed the leaking liquid over its entire body, focusing mainly on its belly. Other members of the group rubbed themselves against the male’s body and were eventually able to retrieve the bottle of repellent and anoint themselves. The repellent is composed mainly of extracts of eucalyptus and citronella. The capuchins may have been attracted by the strong citric scent of the citronella, which is known to stimulate fur-rubbing behavior in these monkeys. This is reinforced by the fact that the sequence of events was quite distinct from that associated with an earlier event, in which a juvenile male looted, tasted, and then discarded a stick of lip gloss and a tube of sunblock. Overall, the observations indicate that the citric scent of the repellent was attractive to the capuchins, especially in comparison with other man-made substances. As the animals partially ingested all the substances, there is clearly a need for more effective regulation of the contact between animals and visitors in the park.


White-faced capuchin Fur rubbing Anointing Neophilia 



We thank the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for funding SFF (process: 303994/2011-8 and 483220/2013) and providing RB-M with a post-doctoral fellowship (150123/2018-3), and the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for post-doctoral stipends to SFF (99999.001536/2015-00) and RB-M (88887.320996/2019-00). The School of Biology, University of Costa Rica provided GAGE with technical funding. We are also grateful to the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (Project 12055114), Primate Conservation Inc. (Project 1158), and the Primate Action Fund (Project 1001257) for technical support to RB-M. We also thank Jessica Lynch-Alfaro for the comments on the first draft of the manuscript and the anonymous reviewers for the indispensable suggestions. We are especially grateful to Mauricio Salazar, director of the PNMA, for logistic support, and Oscar Chaves for field assistance.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1: Online Resource 1 Video recording of a White-faced capuchin (Cebus capucinus) rubbing the commercial insect repellent on its fur, while other group members rub themselves against its body in attempting to touch the bottle or to retrieve the item for their own use. (AVI 29,313 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Post-Graduate Studies SystemUniversity of Costa RicaSan JoséCosta Rica
  2. 2.Post-Graduate Program in Ecology and ConservationFederal University of SergipeSão CristóvãoBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Life SciencesUniversity of RoehamptonLondonUK

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