Finger Monkey Lifespan: How Long Does a Finger Monkey Live?

Written by Rebecca Mathews
Updated: November 6, 2023
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Finger monkeys are the smallest monkey on the planet, small enough to hang from one human finger. They are Amazon rainforest natives but kept as exotic pets, too, so owners naturally want to know a finger monkey’s lifespan. How long does a finger monkey live for? Let’s find out how long-lived these amazing creatures are and much more.

How Long Do Finger Monkeys Live? infographic
In the wild, finger monkeys have an average lifespan of around 12 years. They can live up to 20 years in captivity under the right type of care.

What Is a Finger Monkey?

A finger monkey (Callithrix pygmaeais) is a pygmy marmoset in the Callitrichidae family. It’s the smallest monkey in the world but not the smallest primate. That honor belongs to the mouse lemur.  

An adult finger monkey weighs approximately 3-4 ounces and only reaches up to five inches long. These cute creatures have small noses, orange eyes, large fluffy ears, and a squirrel-like eight-inch prehensile tail used to cling to tree branches.

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Experts think they evolved from larger monkeys that were unable to use the thinner uppermost rainforest tree branches. Because these diminutive creatures are so lightweight, they’re able to hang from the whippiest branches and make use of the resources there.

There are two species of pygmy marmoset:

Cebuella pygmaea — Western pygmy marmosets live in northern Ecuador, Bolivia, areas of southern Columbia, and some of Peru. There are a few numbers north of the Rio Solimoes in Brazil.

Cebuella niveiventris — Eastern pygmy marmosets live in the Brazilian state of Amazona, north Bolivia, and eastern Peru.

The two species are separated by natural barriers like large rivers, but they look very similar with black, gray, and golden-brown fur and defined white face patches that outline their eyes.

Finger monkeys are popular exotic pets because they are so endearing and cute, but they are high maintenance.

Pygmy marmoset

Both species of pygmy marmoset have black, gray, and golden-brown fur with defined white face patches that outline their eyes.

©Guillermo Ossa/

How Long Do Finger Monkeys Live?

Finger monkeys live for approximately 12 years in the wild, but with good care, they live up to 20 years in captivity.

However, it is difficult to replicate a finger monkey’s natural habitat in captivity, particularly their tree sap diet. Without excellent care, finger monkeys won’t live for their potential 20 years.

Do They Make Good Pets?

Tiny finger monkeys are in-demand pets because they are so small and cute. Current market prices put finger monkey value at $3,000-$4,000 each. Because they are worth so much, poachers trap and sell wild finger monkeys through the black market.

Wild animals do not make good pets, and even captive-bred finger monkeys are liable to behave like wild animals because they don’t have thousands of domesticated years behind them like our household cats and dogs.

Experts say finger monkeys are liable to bite and scratch, and they are impossible to house-train. They throw poop when angry, and they are known to run and escape when possible. These behaviors worsen if they aren’t socialized from a very young age.

Another consideration is their very special die,t which includes tree gum, lizards, insects, and fruits. There’s no such thing as tinned monkey food. They need fresh food every day. Vet care is another concern. Finger monkeys catch human-borne diseases like colds and flu. If a local veterinarian does not have experience with exotic animals, then pet finger money may suffer a shortened lifespan.

In the U.S., each state has its own regulations for finger monkey owners. It’s not illegal to own finger monkeys in every state, but it’s illegal everywhere to buy them from the black market.

Overall, finger monkeys don’t make good pets even though they are intelligent and have a potentially long lifespan to bond with their owners.

Finger monkeys live for approximately 12 years in the wild

Finger monkeys live for approximately 12 years in the wild, but with good care, they live up to 20 years in captivity.


Do Finger Monkey Bite?

Yes, pygmy marmosets bite. They are not domesticated animals, and they have sharp teeth (and claws) used to climb trees and defend against predators like vipers and eagles.

Finger Monkey: Habitat

Finger monkeys are native to the Amazon basin, where their lifespan is around 12 years. They live in 20-meter tall rainforest tree tops that are close to water edges with lots of safe thickets to hide in.

These fast and flexible tiny monkeys don’t often leave the safety of their trees, but they can leap up to 16 feet from branch to branch to forage and travel. That’s very impressive, given they are only five inches long! Monkey researchers estimate pygmy marmoset territories are less than one acre of forest. They don’t take up much room.

Many predators hunt mini-sized pygmy marmosets, including pit vipers, ocelots, hawks, and harpy eagles. Finger monkeys use their excellent vision, speed, and agility to escape predators. They make loud trills to warn their troop members of danger, and troops have been spotted mobbing predators en masse. Due to eagles’ predation, they don’t enter the topmost tree canopy, and they prefer to sleep as one unit in a tree hollow.

Finger monkey lifespans tend to be shorter in the wild because they are hunted.

Family Life

Most finger monkeys live in troops of two to nine individuals. A male leads the troop with one breeding female. The rest are children of the mating pair until they strike out on their own. A female finger monkey gives birth to twins twice a year, and the troop shares caring responsibilities. A baby finger monkey weighs just 0.4 ounces and emerges human thumb-sized.

Communication is important to these intelligent creatures, and owners will soon realize they make a lot of noise. Not only do they warn of predators, but they also have a complex communication system. Short-distance trills and long-distance screeches feature alongside visual communication and chemical signaling made almost constantly as they forage and travel together.

Pygmy marmosets

Most finger monkeys live in troops of two to nine individuals.

© Asarisi


We know finger monkeys are the smallest monkey in the world at five inches tall with an eight-inch tail and furry gray, brown, and golden hair, but there are more characteristics to learn about.

Finger monkeys are adapted to tree life, so they do not have opposable thumbs like some primates. They walk on four limbs, have sharp claws that enable quick vertical movement, and their heads rotate 180 degrees to keep watch for predators. They move in the same manner as squirrels.

Their teeth have evolved to feed on tree gum and sap. Sharp bottom teeth pierce tree bark, and sap drains out, forming a small pool. Finger monkeys lap up a tablespoon of the sweet sap at a time. They’ve developed digestive systems that can cope with thick tree gum, and in their native habitat, researchers have discovered thousands of finger monkey gnaw holes in a single tree.

Western pygmy marmoset monkey

Finger monkeys can rotate their head 180 degrees to keep watch for predators.

© Soos


Finger monkeys are omnivores. As well as their gum and sap-sucking adaptions, they hunt and eat small lizards, insects such as butterflies, and different fruits. When they access sap, its sweet scent attracts insects, which lie in wait for, then gobble up!

Although they eat a variety of foods, it’s sap they like to eat the most, and this is one of the reasons why they don’t make good pets.

Pygmy marmosets in zoos are fed an array of fresh fruit, veggies, a specific New World monkey mixture, mealworms, waxworms, and hard-boiled eggs that are easy for them to digest.

An unsuitable diet can cause numerous health issues and considerably shorten a finger monkey’s lifespan.  

Conservation Status

The IUCN classifies both western and eastern finger monkeys as vulnerable. This is because their population is decreasing mainly due to habitat erosion, but illegal poaching is on the rise due to finger monkeys’ desirable exotic pet status.

Recap on a Finger Monkey’s Lifespan

So, to recap on our question, “How Long Does A Finger Monkey Live?” we’ve discovered finger monkeys can live for 20 years in captivity if they are well cared for. However, they are exotic creatures that require a specific diet and need specialized veterinary care. Without those essentials, they won’t live as long as 20 years.

Wild finger monkeys are predated, and they sometimes fall from trees, so they are more likely to reach 10-12 years old.

If you want to enjoy these mini monkeys, many zoos have captive breeding programs.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Edwin Butter/

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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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