Today’s post is a bit personal and I apologize if you were looking for a monkey story, but some days ago, a volunteer from this project and then a local in the study area, both ask me why I study monkeys? Who pays me for doing it? When I mentioned that no one pays me to study monkeys, they ask why I still do it? The reason is simple because it makes me happy. Some of the happiest and more rewarded moments in my life had been surrounded by monkeys. Some of my closest friends had heard me said that monkeys are my angels, and they really are. They are the reason why I wake up every day. Every time I enter a forest and I meet a monkey’s group my heart lift and I’m mesmerized by them. It was a passion that started slowly more than 22 years ago and that keeps growing every time that I enter any forest.
Although working with monkeys in the field had many challenges and discomfort (mosquitos, ticks of multiple sizes, rain, hot, sweat, and many other things) I still enjoy the silent moments in which we are together, and they share a bit of their daily life with me. There is always long walks in the heat, there is always lots of mosquitos and ticks leaving marks in my skin, but the monkeys always show me new things.
My mind always has been an inquisitive one, full of curiosity and questions and the forest, and especially the monkeys always leave me with more questions than answers. And that is why I still continue going to the same forest and looking at the same monkeys year after year. I’m probably not the more successful researcher, I don’t publish much and not many people know me or my work but by going year after year to the same area and looking at the same groups of monkeys, not always the same people, I get a bit more understanding of what is happening with the monkeys in a system where they have to interact with humans and their domestic animals in a daily basis and it always surprises me how adaptable and resilient they are, despite our effort to destroy their home.
Over the years my research questions had varied a lot, it started with basic questions such as what X or Y species of monkeys do or eat? How they relate between them and with other species? To how they move in fragmented landscapes and what they do to survive in close proximity to human activities? Some of these questions have answers, some others are still in the process to find answers and that is why I still study them in the study area and why I still continue going to visit the same monkey groups, even if no one pays me for doing it. Or if collecting those data doesn’t seem to be part of a specific research project.
If the landowners still allow me to visit the same farms, I will continue visiting the same groups, that is an opportunity that it’s sometimes difficult to get with animals of long-life span like monkeys, where some changes only happen or are evident after several decades. So, I will continue studying monkeys because I love them and it makes me happy, even if I don’t earn an income from doing that, for as long as I have a place to go and see them…
So, my personal advice for you is that if you find something that makes you happy, do it, no matter if you don’t earn an income from that.
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