The electrophoretic variability of blood proteins coding for up to 32 genetic loci was analyzed in 108 squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus, Saimiri boliviensis, hybrids) from two captive colonies. Twelve polymorphic loci with 31 alleles are reported. The biallelic Ada* locus, G-statistics and Hardy-Weinberg genotype equilibria are useful for recognizing hybrids between S. sciureus and S. boliviensis. Backcrosses in hybrid stocks and gene flow in a natural hybrid belt, however, complicate the taxonomic diagnosis of captive specimens: S. sciureus phenotypes imported from Peru possessed the allele Ada*132, which generally characterizes S. boliviensis (or species hybrids). The complex taxonomy of Saimiri spp. Requires careful planning of captive breeding. We suggest a genetic analysis of the founder individuals before their inclusion in the European studbook population and to breed S. sciureus from Guyana separately from Peruvian imports, because the latter bear a greater risk of being taxonomically heterogeneous. Zoo Biol 17:95–109, 1998. © 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.