The black-handed spider monkey is found in Central America, from Mexico and Belize in the north to Panama in the south, where it lives in the high canopy of the rain, mangrove and temperate forests. As they roam the canopy, spider monkeys look for their favorite food: ripe and fleshy fruits. When fruits are scarce spider monkeys may also feed on leaf buds and flowers and supplement their diet with other tree parts and insects. The social structure of spider monkeys consists of loose, unstable groups that include up to 30 individuals. These groups often split into smaller sub-groups that include 5 individuals on average and forage independently in the larger group's territory. The only stable social bond in a spider monkey's life is between a mother and its offspring. Spider monkeys have a lifespan of about 27 years.
The black handed spider monkey species includes several subspecies, which are found along the species distribution area. All sub-species are endangered, with some sub-species critically endangered. This risk of extinction originates mainly from the destruction of the species' main habitat - the Central American tropical rainforests. This risk is also the reason for keeping the species in captivity and breeding it, with the hope that these efforts, together with the preservation and reconstruction of the species' habitat, will allow to restore the population to its original status.