Monkey Forest Tales: More about baby monkeys’ behavior


Dusky titi monkey father carrying his baby in his neck.

Today’s post is again about the baby monkey’s behavior. Looking a baby to growth is one of the best experiences in life and for me is the same if you look a baby monkey or a human baby, I enjoy both, even if I don’t have babies.

I think one of the reasons why I fell in love with monkeys was because I was looking at a baby’s behavior. I remember looking at them and making comparisons between what I was seeing and what I had witnessed from babies in my own family. And it’s not only about playing, but it’s also about how they start they live.

Most babies of the primate species in the study area started in a similar way, with small differences in which part of the mother’s body they are carried during the first days. Red howlers monkey moms carry their babies in the ventral part of their body near to their tail. After a few weeks and during the following months, babies move to the back near to their tail. One of the most amazing things about monkey babies is their strength to grasp their mothers, despite their small bodies, their hands are really strong.

On the other hand, moms of black-capped capuchins, Colombian squirrel monkeys and fathers of dusky titi monkeys and Brumback night monkeys carry their babies on their necks during the first weeks of their lives. After their first month, babies of these species are carried on mother’s or father’s back.

They start exploring the world and other members of their groups and families from the back of their mothers similar to what humans’ babies do from their mother’s arms, observing everything and trying to touch and reach everything.

They learn by imitating the behaviors of their mothers and other members of their groups. They learn to choose what to eat from their mother’s mouths, I had seen from al species in the study area how babies takes leave, flowers, fruits and even insects from their mother’s mouth and try it, and sometimes, when they are older (around 3 – 5 months) from other members of their groups.

Although most of them don’t get as messy as small kids end after trying some foods, the behavior is similar in the curiosity that monkey’s and human’s babies show about different foods, they smell it, bite it, and spit it out. A couple of times I had the opportunity to help with the caring of small monkeys, in a rehabilitation center in the Amazon and during a short period of time in the jungle when we found a baby after an infanticide event. In both cases, one of the things that surprise me the most was not only their instinct to grab you as hard as they can, as their lives depend on that, but also how they imitate you when trying new foods.

With this post and the last one I hope now you understand a bit more, why we say humans are also primates, we not only have a similar anatomy and physiology (in general terms), but also share the way in which we learn some of our social skills and how much we depend on our mothers to learn about the world in which we are growing.

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