Monkey Forest Tales: Some notes about our new monitoring of Colombian squirrel monkeys in Villavicencio city

Over the last four months in which we were unable to follow monkeys because of the national lockdown caused by COVID-19, we have been monitoring a couple of Colombian squirrel monkeys in the forest remnants of Villavicencio city.
This monitoring is different from the one we made in San Martin area as we only have some sighting points to monitor the monkeys use of the forest instead of a systematic survey of complete forest fragments such as the ones in San Martin area.
However, our observations had allowed us to observe not only multi-male and multi-female groups but also bachelor groups (groups formed by only adult and subadult males) using the same forest area. Some babies from this year had been observed in three groups in different points of the city. Also, we had observed the monkeys eating some fruits that we didn’t observe them eating in San Martín.
It is still unclear how big is the territories of the groups we had identified. At least in one area we know they use electric lines to crossroads instead of going to the ground. However, the electrocution risk is high, and some fatalities has been reported by local people in those areas.
Some of the challenges to monitoring these groups is the insecurity to access the forest as well as the risk to be rob at the observation points at certain hours. Now that we have more freedom to move inside the city and the country a more intense monitoring of these groups of Colombian squirrel monkeys will start.
We had identified at least two points in which the groups are feed with banana, papaya and watermelon and a student will start monitoring one of these groups. A new campaign to reduce monkeys feeding points and behavior will also be started in the next month in those feeding points. Stay tuned for more advances on these new activities.


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Monkey Forest Tales: Some observations about birds in the study area

San Camilo- San Diego - San Marcos 068

I have been thinking for a while to write about some of my not specialized observations of birds in the area. In today’s post, I will share some of the patterns observed over the years for this most colorful animals. I have to admit that I’m an amateur in terms of birds, I know the basic from my studies in biology, but it wasn’t until I live in a place where most mammals where nocturnal that I developed an interest and enjoy observing birds during my daily walks, despite the good efforts of some of my ornithologist friends in previous years.

Probably the biggest pattern that I have observed in recent years in the study area is the return of individuals of Spix’s guan to some of the forests where they inhabit in the past but were gone for several decades, although still present in the region. A sighting I never will be tired to see is the return to the gallery forest of the scarlet ibis, mostly seen near to the small pond of water that survives the dry season in the forest fragments of the study area.

The whole region is rich in water, natural and artificial lakes, morichales (palm swamps composed mainly of Mauritia flexuosa palms), and small streams and rivers. During the rainy season is common to see the white-faced whistling duck in natural and artificial lakes.

SM Junio-Julio 2013 152

Walking in the forest always brings surprises such as blue-crowned motmot singing alone near to the ground. The usual lek of the white-bearded manakin, close to the forest edges in the lower parts of the forest, where a group of male’s dances in a coordinated way to attract the females. Deep in the biggest forest of the study area, we also can see Wire-tailed manakin leks in the lower branches Or the surprising and cryptic sunbittern in the lower branches of big trees over the stream.

Some years ago, it was also possible to see a couple of Jabirus in the big natural lake of the area, but we haven’t heard any reports in recent years in the area. The pastures and living fences are full of other species more tolerant to open spaces like Caracara cheriway, yellow-headed caracara, or the incredible fork-tailed flycatcher with his long tail balancing on a wire fence.

Birds in the study area are threatened by the same processes as monkeys, deforestation, and fragmentation. Protecting one group is also protecting the other, so let’s protect the forest so we can continue enjoying birds and monkeys for many years to come.

Unamas - SR Enero 2012 465

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Monkey Forest Tales: Life from the perspective of a Brumback night monkey baby, first 6 months

Aotus brumbacki (Colombian Llanos)Family
Brumback’s owl monkey (mono nocturno; Aotus brumbacki)

In today’s post, I am going to explore how is the life of a small baby monkey of a Brumback night monkey…

I’m what humans called a Brumback night monkey, a small monkey with big eyes, and almost no nose living in a forest of Colombia. My life started a calm and warm night at the end of the dry season. My mom was in our nest, hiding in a tall tree with lots of vines around us, it was a bit dark when I get out. My mom takes me from the middle of her legs and cleans me with her tongue. Once I was clean she put me in father’s back close to his neck, where I can hang very tight to his fur and put my tail around his arm. I’m very small and my father’s fur hides me because my tiny body is always very close to my dad’s neck.

In the first weeks of my life, I spend them on my father’s neck and only got o my mom when she feeds me. My dad takes care of me, cleans my fur, keeps me warm, and takes me with him, everywhere. My mom came close and sleep close to us every night. Some nights we sleep in the tall tree nest where I was born, but other times we sleep in a dead hollow palm or a huge fig tree with a couple of deep holes that keep us warm during the day. We mostly move at night, I discover that is why we have those big eyes, that way see at night and find our ways around the forest eating insects and fruits. My mom also cleans my fur and give me my milk every time I ask her. My days and nights pass as I drink milk from my mom’s armpit and sleep in my dad’s back most of the time. There are no other babies in the group, but I have a sister that sometimes cleans my fur and plays with me when our parent is resting…

Two months had passed since I was born and now I move around in my dad’s back when he is not moving, sometimes I even explore a bit farther when he is resting, walking, and jumping in the nearby branches. I usually play with my sister. We jump, run, and bite each other.

I had four months now, I still move on my dad’s back, but sometimes he starts moving ahead and I have to cry so he remembers that I’m still here and need to be carried by him. Sometimes I can also climb in my sister back. I started to try some of the fruits my dad is eating, I like to bite everything but it doesn’t always taste nice. Most of the time I spend exploring and playing with my sister. My mom still gives me milk from time to time. My legs are skinny and not always strong enough to carry me. I’m clumsy…

Now I have six months, I move alone except in some places where the branches are so apart from that I’m scared to jump. My dad helps me in those places, he let me climb on her back and I cross with him, but then he always wants me to go alone again and we fight, he bites me. Some nights my parents and sister let me in some dense branches where I can stay hiding while they move to eat in a nearby tree. I don’t like it much and start calling for them when this happens. I eat on my own now, but some times I also drink milk from my mom. I eat almost everything I can catch and sometimes steal some insects and fruits from my dad’s hand. Most of the time I’m playing, jumping, and running with my sister. I’m a healthy six-month baby of Brumback’s night monkey.

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Monkey Forest Tales: Celebrating International Primate Day!

This week on September 1rst, we celebrate International Primate Day! It’s a day to bring attention to this wonderful and diverse group of mammals whose members are the closest related to us, as we are also primates.

It is also a day to draw attention to the problems that are affecting most primate populations around the world. The main threats to this diverse group are mainly caused by human activities with deforestation and fragmentation caused by cattle ranching, agriculture at different scales (from small crops to large plantations), infrastructure projects, and mining. The additional threat that is exacerbated by deforestation and fragmentation of primate habitat is hunting and illegal pet trade.

Primates include all mammals that we commonly called lemurs, loris, monkeys, apes, and humans. It is a diverse group with a wide range of locomotion skills, diet, social organizations, reproductive strategies, habitat requirements, adaptations, and morphological features, including very colorful animals as well as a wide range of sizes. The smallest primate is a prosimian, Berthe’s mouse lemur, who lives in Madagascar and weighs no more than 30.6 grams. And the biggest primate is the Gorilla, living in Africa, with a weight of 140 – 250 kg, for males that are bigger than females.

In the study area, as we mentioned multiple times, we have five species of primates. The largest monkey in the study area is the red howler monkeys and the smallest is the Colombian squirrel monkey. They showed a wide diversity of habits with four diurnal species (red howlers, black-capped capuchins, dusky titi, and the Colombian squirrel monkeys) and one nocturnal species (Brumback’s night monkey). They also have a variety of diet from the most folivorous species like red howler monkeys and a more insectivorous-frugivorous species like the Colombian squirrel monkeys and a more omnivorous species like black-capped capuchins.

There is also a wide diversity of social structures exhibited by the monkeys in the study areas with monogamous species like dusky titi and Brumack’s night monkeys as well as multimale and multifemale groups like red howler, Colombian squirrel monkeys, and black-capped capuchins.

At the study area, deforestation and fragmentation had been shaping the ecology and movements of the monkey’s species inside and between forest fragment, as well as the use of wire and living fences, isolated trees, palm oil plantations, and pastures depending on their skills and tolerance to human activities around them.

Let’s celebrate International Primate Day by raising awareness of the diversity of this great group of animals and protecting the forest in which they inhabit. We also can do something by minding the things we buy and from where they proceed

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Monkey Forest Tales: Life from the perspective of a black-capped capuchin baby, first 6 months

 

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Black-capped capuchins (mono maicero; Sapajus apella fatuellus)

In today’s post, I am going to explore how is the life of a small baby monkey of black-capped capuchin …
I’m what humans called a black-capped capuchin, a medium-size, an agile and smart monkey living in a forest of Colombia. My life started on a windy afternoon at the beginning of the rainy season. My mom was hiding in a very high tree cover by lots of vines around us, it was a bit dark when I get out. My mom takes me from the middle of her legs and cleans me with her tongue. Once I was clean she put me in her back close to her neck, where I can hang very tight to her fur and put my tail around her arm. I’m small with a pink, wrinkled face and a tiny body very close to my mom’s back.
In the first weeks of my life, I spend them in my mother’s back very close to her neck and slowing moving towards the lower part of her back. My days pass as I drink milk from my mom’s armpit and sleep in her back most of the day. She continuously moves around and other females and juveniles some times came close to us to rest and eat. There is another baby a bit bigger than me, whose mom is always close to us. We sniff at each other when our moms rest very close at noon.
Two months had passed since I born and now I move around in my mom’s back when she is not moving, sometimes I even explore a bit farther when she is resting, walking, and jumping in the nearby branches. I usually play with the other baby. We jump, run, and bite each other, sometimes we roll all over, especially when we are on the ground and our moms are catching insects.
I had four months now, I still move on my mother’s back, but sometimes she starts moving ahead and I have to cry so she remembers that I’m still here and need to be carried by her. I started to try some of the fruits and insects my mom is eating, I like to bite leaves and branches and try to catch insect flying around us. Most of the time I spend exploring and playing with the other baby and juveniles. My legs are skinny and not always strong enough to carry me. I’m clumsy. My face is less pink now but still covered in wrinkles.
Now I have six months, my face is clear and has fewer wrinkles than before. I move alone except in some places where the branches are so apart from each other that I’m scared to jump. My mom helps me in those places, she let me climb on her back, and I cross with her, but she always wants me to go alone again and we fight, she bites me. I eat on my own now, but some times I also drink milk from my mom. I eat almost everything I can catch and sometimes steal some insects from my mom’s hand. Most of the time I’m playing, jumping, and running with the other baby and juveniles, we love to chase each others, sometimes when the squirrel monkeys are around, we also play with them, to chase each other and jump. I’m a healthy six-month baby of black-capped capuchin.
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Monkey Forest Tales: Life from the perspective of a dusky titi monkey baby, first 6 months

SM Junio 2011 282

In today’s post, I am going to explore how is the life of a small baby monkey of a dusky titi monkey…
I’m what humans called a dusky titi monkey, a small fluffy monkey living in a forest of Colombia. My life started a windy night of the dry season. My mom was hiding in a very dense shrub with lots of vines around us, it was a bit dark when I get out. My mom takes me from the middle of her legs and clean me with her tongue. Once I was clean she put me in father’s back close to his neck, where I can hang very tight to his fur and put my tail around his arm. I’m very small and my father’s fur hides me because my tiny body is always very close to my dad’s neck.
The first weeks of my life I spend them in my father’s neck and only got o my mom when she feeds me. My dad takes care of me, cleans my fur, keeps me warm, and takes me with him, everywhere. My mom came close and sleep close to as every night. She also cleans my fur and gives me my milk every time I ask her. My days pass as I drink milk from my mom’s armpit and sleep in my dad’s back most of the day. There are no other babies in the group, but I have another brother that sometimes clean my fur and play with me when our parents are restin..
Two months had passed since I born and now I move around in my dad’s back when he is not moving, sometimes I even explore a bit farther when he is resting, walkin,g and jumping in the nearby branches. I usually play with my bother. We jump, ru,n and bite each other.
I had four months now, I still move on my dad’s back, but sometimes hestartst moving ahead and I have to cry so heremembersr that I’m still here and need to be carried by him. Sometimes I can also climb in my brothers back but not too often, he doesn’t like it much. I started to try some of the fruits my dad is eating, I like to bite everything but it doesn’t always taste nice. Most ofthey time I spend exploring and playing with my brother. My mom stillgivese me milk from time to time. My legs are skinny and not always strong enough to carry me. I’m clumsy…
Now I have six months, I move alone except in some places where the branches are so apar from each other, and I’m scared to jump. My dad helps me on those places, he let me climb on his back and I cross with him, but then he always wants me to go alone again, and we fight, he bites me. I eat on my own now, but some times I also drink milk from my mom. I eat almost everything I can catch and sometimes steal some insects and fruits from my dad’s hand. Most of the time I’m playing, jumping and running with my brother.
We sleep all together in the same branch and my parents, brother and I,  all intertwine our tails together, this makes us feel together overnight and keep us warm, and together. I’m a healthy six-month baby of dusky titi monkey.
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Monkey Forest Tales: Life from the perspective of a Red howler monkey baby, first 8 months

IUnamas - SR Enero 2012 394In today’s post, I am going to explore how is the life of a small baby monkey of Red howler monkey…
I’m what humans called a red howler monkey, a large reddish monkey living in a fragmented forest of Colombia. My life started in the early morning of the first days of the rainy season. My mom was is a high wide branch of a fig tree a bit separated from other females of the group when I get out. My mom takes me from the middle of her legs and cleanses me with her tongue, she eats my placenta and cleans me carefully. Once I was clean she put me in her belly close to her armpit, where I can hang very tight to her fur and put my tail around her arm. I had my eyes closed most of the time and I’m very tiny compared with my mom’s body.
The first weeks of my life I spend them in my mother’s belly or armpit and slowing moving towards the lower part of her back, close to her tail. My days pass as I drink milk from my mom’s armpit and sleep while she keeps moving around. She continuously moves around and other females and member of the groups come close to sniff me and sometimes try to grab me for a better look, but my mom never let them get me too long. There are another baby bigger than me, which mom is always close to mine, some times he came and try to play with me, but I’m too small to play.
Two months had passed since I born and now I move around in my mom’s back when she is resting, sometimes I even explore a bit farther, walking and jumping in the nearby branches. I started to play with the other baby. We jump, run, and bite each other, sometimes hanging from our tail only. My tail is like another limb for me and it seems to be as strong as my arms and legs. A couple of times we play close to the big male and he even let us pull his tail, I’m not sure if he is my dad but he is always near to my mom and my the other baby mom and seems to tolerate us when we are playing…until we get to noise for him and he just more to a farther branch.
I had four months now, I still move on my mother’s back, but sometimes she starts moving ahead and I have to cry so she remembers that I’m still here and need to be carried by her. I started to try some of the fruits and leaves my mom is eating, I like to bite leaves everything from her mouth. Most of the time I spend exploring and playing with the other baby and a male juvenile had joined us. My legs are skinny and not always strong enough to carry me. I’m clumsy.
I started to move between some close trees or branches in the same tree but sometimes they are very far from each other and when I cry, my mom, uses a part of her body to make a bridge so I can cross on my own…
Now I have six months, I still move on my mom’s back when the group is moving very fast but sometimes I move alone. I try to use branches that are close to each other making an easy path but, now my mom and sometimes other females and the juvenile in my group help me cross distant branches making bridges with their bodies so I can cross those gaps. Mostly is my mom and sometimes she also let me just cross until I get to her back and she carry me the rest of the time. I eat on my own now, but some times I also drink milk from my mom. I eat almost everything I can reach and sometimes I steal some fruits from my mom’s hand. Most of the time I’m playing, jumping, and running with the other baby and juvenile, we love to hang from our tails and bite to each other.
I’m now eight months old, I move and eat alone all the time, my mom doesn’t make any more bridges for me to cross any gaps between branches I just have to figure out were to go that is easier for me to cross. I still spend lots of time playing with the other baby and juvenile, but now we are all bigger. We still love to play to hang with our tails and bite each other. We also love to chase each other when our moms are resting. Our father and the other male tolerate us but always move to a quieter branch when we get too noisy playing. We sometimes join our parents when they howl against another group.
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Monkey Forest Tales: Life from the perspective of a Colombian squirrel monkey baby, first 6 months

Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena (Colombian Llanos)

In today’s post, I am going to explore how is the life of a small baby monkey Colombian squirrel monkey…
I’m what humans called a Colombian squirrel monkey, a small, very agile monkey living in a forest of Colombia. My life started when on a windy afternoon of the dry season. My mom was hiding in a very dense shrub with lots of vines around us, it was a bit dark when I get out. My mom takes me from the middle of her legs and cleanse me with her tongue. Once I was clean she put me in her back close to her neck, where I can hang very tight to her fur and put my tail around her arm. I had a big head and my tiny body is always very close to my mom’s back.
In the first weeks of my life, I spend most of the time in my mother’s back very close to her neck and slowly moving towards the lower part of her back. My days pass as I drink milk from my mom’s armpit and sleep in her back most of the day. She continuously moves around and other females and new babies some times came close to us to rest and eat. I had a brother who sniffs my body and tries to drink milk from my mom from time to time, but she always pulls him away.
Two months had passed since I born and now I move around in my mom’s back when she is not moving, sometimes I even explore a bit farther when she is resting, walking, and jumping in the nearby branches. I usually play with other babies from my age and some others a bit bigger than me. We jump, run, and bite each other, sometimes we roll all over, especially when we are on the ground and our moms are catching insects.
I had four months now, I still move on my mother’s back, but sometimes she starts moving ahead and I have to cry so she remembers that I’m still here and need to be carried by her. I started to try some of the fruits my mom is eating, I like to bite leaves and branches but it doesn’t taste nice. Most of the time I spend exploring and playing with other babies and juveniles. My legs are skinny and not always strong enough to carry me. I’m clumsy.
Now I have six months, I move alone except in some places where the branches are so apart from that I’m scared to jump. My mom helps me in those places, she let me climb on her back and I cross with her, but then she always wants me to go alone again and we fight, she bites me. I eat on my own now, but some times I also drink milk from my mom. I eat almost everything I can catch and sometimes steal some insects and fruits from my mom’s hand. Most of the time I’m playing, jumping and running with all the other babies and juveniles, we are so many, sometimes we make teams and pursue each other.
When it rains my mom always covers me and shares her warm. During heavy rains, all moms and babies get together forming a ball of fur with all of us, babies in the middle so we don’t get too wet and cold. I’m a healthy six-month baby of the Colombian squirrel monkey.
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Monkey Forest Tales: Importance of fig trees for monkeys fragmented landscapes

La Marly Enero 2012 192

Following a related topic from last week, today’s post is about the importance of fig trees for monkeys in fragmented areas such as the study area. Fig trees have been called keystone species, because they produce fruits any time during a year, and usually out of the fruit production peak in many forests, providing fruit to many frugivorous species (e.g. birds, bats, monkeys, and other mammals) when no other fruits are available.
In fragmented areas, and especially in the study area, fig trees are very important for primates and other animals as a source of fruits. Fig trees are found inside the forest fragments, in living feces, isolated trees in the middle of the pastures, and in the forest fragments edges. Some species of fig trees produce large amounts of small fruits that last over several days providing an incredible source of food for many animals.
In the study area, all monkeys species consume fig trees fruits when they are available. Black-capped capuchins, Colombian squirrel monkeys, and red howler monkeys even cross small distances on the ground to reach fig trees with fruits, putting them at risk of predation from domestic dogs and raptors.
In the study area, only black-capped capuchins and Colombian squirrel monkeys had been observed eating together in the same fig tree. However, in continuous areas and larger fragments (> 500 ha) in the study region and in the Amazon up to four species of monkeys had been observed eating in the same tree. Although it’s not so frequent, usually different species used the same fig tree at different times.
When more than two species are eating in the same tree sometimes you can see a division of the area in which each species eat, with bigger species such as red howler, woolly monkeys or spider monkeys in the upper parts of the canopy and medium and smaller monkeys in the lower part or on the ground feeding from fallen fruits.
Fig trees are also used by nocturnal monkeys which sometimes share the fig tree with a common opossum in the study area. Other animals commonly seen during fig trees fruit production are toucans and parrots. So in fragmented areas, the same as in continuous areas fig trees became keystone species important for the survivorship of many frugivorous animals during the low fruit production season.
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Monkey Forest Tales: Importance of palms for primates in the study area

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Some weeks ago, someone from the region ask me if palms we’re important for primates. The short answer is yes they are important. Therefore, in today’s post, we are going to talk about the importance of palms for monkeys in the study area.
Colombia is one of the countries with more diversity of palms in the world. This makes palms an important source of resources for monkeys and other fauna such as birds, reptiles, frogs, and other mammals. Palms are used as nesting sites, as a source to search for insects and spiders, as a perch or a place to rest during the daily activities, and food. Fruits and flowers of many palm species are used by parrots, monkeys, and other mammals as food.
One feature common to most of palm fruits is a hard seed which contain oil, sometimes covered by a hard shell (epicarp), which make it difficult to break and the contains not always available for all animals.
For example, black-capped capuchins display an interesting behavior to open the nuts of cumare (Astrocaryum chambira), a tall palm species which trunk is covered by thorns, with a medium size nut of hard shell, which have a coconut inside rich in oil and when it is unripe it contains water. Black-capped capuchins get to the palm fruits very carefully from other trees around the cumare palm and then with their strong teeth take one nut from the cluster. One they have it, they move to a nearby trees with wide branches and start knocking the fruit using most of their bodies (Izawa 1979). Mostly the adult males are the ones that can open most of the palm fruits, juveniles imitate them but not always are successful.
Cumare palms were once a very common palm in the study area, however they have been cut from most of the forests and pastures because the cattle used to get hurt by its thorns, according to local people living in the area over 30 years.
Palms are used by monkeys as nesting sites or as food or to search insects and spiders. For example palms like moriche (Mauritia flexuosa) and unamas or milpeso (Oenocarpus bataua) are used as nesting sites for Brumbacks night monkeys (Aotus brumbackii), black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella) and Colombian squirrel monkeys (Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena). This palms are also used as food. All these monkeys used them to eat its flowers and its ripe and unripe fruits.
Other palms such as pona (Iriarthea exhorriza), asai (Euterpe oleracea) and cumare (Astrocarium chambira) are used only for their fruits for all monkey species in the study area, including the dusky titi monkey and the red howler monkeys. In the study area palms such as asai, unama and moriche are still common and very important for the local fauna, including monkeys.
Izawa, K. 1979. Food and feeding behavior of wild black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella). Primates 21: 57-76.
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