“Monkeys” by Jan Darling with Teacher Notes

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I kept reading and counting and reading some more

Till I reached two hundred and sixty four

That’s the number of species in the world of the Monkey

That’s a BIG number – that’s really funky.


To complicate things a little bit more

(at this point my eyes began to get sore)

They’re divided again by where they are found

In the East or the West, up trees, on the ground.


Turns out it’s easier to go by the times

When we’re talking of Monkeys from different climes

The Old World Monkey has a different nose

And his tail’s less supportive when he’s on his toes.


They all live in Africa and all over Asia

Seventy eight species – enough to amaze ya.

The Old World Monkey has a narrower nose

And his tail’s less useful when dealing with foes.


But the New World Monkey’s *prehensile of tail

Adding grip, swing and style – through the trees he can sail;

His side-facing nostrils and a nose which is flatter

Let him breathe easy while sharing his chatter.


Where is his homeland – this Monkey-come-lately?

Is it Norway or Russia or somewhere less stately?

He hails from America, the land in the South

Where he lives his life happy, not just hand to mouth.




Who’s the tiniest Monkey on all of the Earth?

In West Amazon basin his mother gives birth

The Pygmy Marmoset looks neat on your hand

(Being kept as a pet is not everywhere banned).


He’s around 6 inches, that’s reeeaally small

And six ounces he weighs – head to toe that is all.

He’s covered with fur – gray, tawny or gold

He can live to fifteen – now that’s pretty old.


His tail beats his body – it’s LONGER than that

It’s strong and it’s muscly, with no useless fat.

He can leap in the air to fifteen feet

Fifteen feet! He’s six inches?  That’s really neat.


They talk to each other with chatter and trilling

In pitches so high your eardrum’s not willing

To listen to sound so hurtful to ears.

Listening too long can bring you to tears.


In families they live together for life

Facing each problem, solving their strife

The Troop (as they’re called) can number round nine

At night: they will rest; daily: hunt, hide and dine.


They eat leaves, bugs and plants and love to sip sap

They waste nothing when eating, not even a scrap.

Their heads they can swing from east right to west

One eighty degrees – with broad view they are blest.


From danger they hide, jumping branch over tree

Dashing and leaping to keep themselves free,

Forest plants offer cover, and their colour does blend

Into the background, the foliage their friend.




So, friends of the Monkey…  what do youthink?

You’d like a Monkey who’s special – what about pink?

Take a look at the Mandrill, he’s clearly no frump

Blue and red on the face and a brightly hued rump.


The Mandrill’s from Old World and lives where it rains

In equatorial forests, not open plains;

There’s no Monkey as colourful in jungle or Zoo

As the world’s biggest Monkey – the Mandrill, that’s who!


His face is clean shaven, the better to show

His features in colours that brilliantly glow

He eats roots, fruits and insects, small animals, too

And the Mandrill most colourful is first in the queue.


They live all together in hundreds called Hordes

They’re generally happy, not crossing swords,

They groom each other as most **primates do

Whether living in the wild or at home in the Zoo.


How big does this biggest of all Monkeys grow?

Sixty kilo’s the biggest on record, we know.

The female grows half of the size of the male

He’s always more colourful, she tends toward pale.




We’ve Monkeys from Old World and New World – that’s swell

We’ve done smallest and biggest and brightest as well

But there’s still something more of interest to know

About how people describe Monkey groups when on show.


In general you’ll hear more Collectives in use –

Remembering’s easy, their meanings are loose.

You’ll find Monkeys in Barrels, in Tribes and in Troops

In Missions and Cartloads – all terms for their Groups.


And most fun of all is to watch them at play

They’re very like us when they join in the fray

The Infants are cared for by all of the Troop

Aunts, uncles and cousins are kept in the loop.




Jan Darling



*prehensile: means capable of grasping.  Monkeys use their prehensile tails for balancing when on the ground and for grasping when tree-swinging.


**primates are an order of mammals which is distinguished by having hands and hand-like feet and forward-facing eyes.  They are often agile tree-dwellers.  Monkeys, apes, marmosets, lemurs, bushbabies and humans (not so agile when swinging through trees) all share these features

Teaching notes


Compare Imperial measures used in this verse to Metric.

6 inches =  15.2cms

6 ounces =170g

15 feet  = 4.57m

60 kilograms = 132lbs

The writer mixed Imperial with metric to simplify the verse.


How many species of Monkey are there?


How are the two groups of Monkeys generally defined?


On which continents do these groups live?


Which is the biggest Monkey in the world?

Is he Old World or New World?


Which is the smallest Monkey in the world?

Is he Old World or New World?


Which is the most colourful Monkey in the world?


Information not included in the verse:

The brilliant blue of the face and rump of the Mandrill is not due to pigmentation but results from the scattering of light by the array of collagen fibres in the dermis.  The exact shade is determined by the size and spacing of these fibres in different areas of the skin.

A similar condition causes polar bear fur to look white.  Polar fur actually has no pigmentation, its fibres are hollow and made of keratin with light scattering particles which create the white effect.  The polar bear’s skin is actually black!


How many terms for groups of Monkeys can you name?


Go to YouTube for spectacular pictures of Mandrills and Pygmy Marmosets.
























































  • There are currently 264 known monkey
  • Monkeyscan be divided into two groups, Old World monkeysthat live in Africa and Asia, and New World monkeys that live in South America.
  • A baboon is an example of an Old World monkey, while a marmoset is an example of a New World monkey.
  • Apes are not monkeys.


  • Some monkeys live on the ground, while others live in trees.
  • Different monkey species eat a variety of foods, such as fruit, insects, flowers, leaves and reptiles.
  • Most monkeys have tails.
  • Groups of monkeys are known as a ‘tribe’, ‘troop’ or ‘mission’.
  • The Pygmy Marmoset is the smallest type of monkey, with adults weighing between 120 and 140 grams.
  • The Mandrill is the largest type of monkey, with adult males weighing up to 35 kg.
  • Capuchin monkeys are believed to be one of the smartest New World monkey species. They have the ability to use tools, learn new skills and show various signs of self-awareness.
  • Spider monkeys get their name because of their long arms, legs and tail.
  • The monkey is the 9th animal that appears on the Chinese zodiac, appearing as the zodiac sign in 2016.
  • The noses of New World monkeysare flatter than the narrow noses of the Old World monkeys, and have side-facing nostrils. New World monkeys are the onlymonkeys with prehensile tails—in comparison with the shorter, non-grasping tails of the anthropoids of the Old World.

NW have 12 premolars instead of 8.

Mostly arboreal, NW more likely to form pair bonds


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