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The black-handed spider monkey has a light to medium brown body and darker limbs with the hands and feet usually black in color. The tail is sometimes longer than the body. When the animal is on the lookout, it stands or walks on two feet, using the tail to hold on to a support. In the wild, the Spider monkey rarely comes down to the jungle floor.
Spider monkeys live in evergreen rainforests, semi deciduous and mangrove forests, almost never coming to the ground. In these forests they live mostly in the upper canopy, preferring undisturbed high forest. They will be found in other forest types if habitat is limited, hunting pressure light and other primate competitors are not present. They are more flexible than their South American primate cousins in habitat adaptation.