The forests of western Amazonia support high site-level biological diversity, yet regional community heterogeneity is poorly understood. Using data from line transect surveys at 37 forest sites in south-eastern Peru, we assessed whether local primate assemblages are heterogeneous at the scale of a major watershed. We examined patterns of richness, abundance and community structure as a function of forest type, hunting pressure, land-management regime and geographic location. The primate assemblage composition and structure varied spatially across this relatively small region of Amazonia (≈ 85 000 km2), resulting from large-scale species patchiness rather than species turnover. Primate species richness varied among sites by a factor of two, community similarity by a factor of four and aggregate biomass by a factor of 45. Several environmental variables exhibited influence on community heterogeneity, though none as much as geographic location. Unflooded forest sites had higher species richness than floodplain forests, although neither numerical primate abundance nor aggregate biomass varied with forest type. Non-hunted sites safeguarded higher abundance and biomass, particularly of large-bodied species, than hunted sites. Spatial differences among species assemblages of a relatively generalist taxon like primates in this largely undisturbed forest region imply that community heterogeneity may be even greater in more species-rich taxa, as well as in regions of greater forest habitat diversity.