Monkey Forest Tales: A small gift for those of you like me that need the forest to feel OK, but can get it right now

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Today’s post I want to share some of the strategies that I had used over more than 20 years working in the field or in cities in an isolated type of situation. I also want to share some of the images, recordings I used and still used when feeling isolated and need a boost of motivation for my life.

As I mentioned before, I had worked in many places, far from family and friends over the years, sometimes in magical places like an incredible forest. And some other times in small, isolated towns in my country and other countries. In all those places isolation came in different ways and although sometimes I had movement freedom in others I didn’t have it. And I actually being isolated with very few people or only myself to keep me company.

Although I’m used to be alone and I actually enjoy it. Feeling sad when you are alone is common and it is ok. It’s on those moments that I need the most forest and monkeys… I learned a very long time ago that being close to nature heals me physically and emotionally.

So, when I’m isolated and can’t go to the forest and see monkey I use the pictures  I’m attaching to this post to rebalance my life. That is my best strategy against isolation, sadness and lack of motivation. I hope it gives you a bit of motivation in these times. Please feel free to share it with anyone you think will enjoy them and will help them in this time of isolation, just keep the credits. We all need a few positive images and motivation to help us in these times…

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Monkey Forest Tales: Why is important NOT to feed wild monkeys?

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Today’s post is about an important topic for wild primates and humans, not only because of the impact that feeding wild monkeys had on monkey’s lives but also because this can have a high impact on people’s lives too. It is about the importance of NOT feeding wild monkeys

Monkeys had always caused fascination for humans, maybe because of our physical similarities, their curiosity, and sometimes funny behavior. This fascination makes that some humans see monkeys as something cute to pet and feed, causing two major problems for wild monkeys: illegal pet traffic and feeding of wild populations. This especially happens in areas where humans and monkeys share their space such as cities and towns and with less frequency in farms.

But, why feeding wild monkeys is bad? Well, it presents a couple of problems for monkeys and humans.

The first one and probably most important is the transmission of diseases caused by microorganisms. Our physiology and monkey’s physiology is similar. This means that our bodies respond more or less in the same way to viruses, bacteria, fungus, and other microorganisms. Therefore, our infections can pass to them and their infections can pass to us and by doing that make us both vulnerable.

When you feed a wild monkey, even if the monkey lives freely in a city, you enter in contact with microorganisms that they carry and the monkeys enter in contact with microorganisms that we carry, making both of us, monkeys and humans, prone to get a disease or infection carries by the other.

The second problem is that when they get used to being feed by humans and that feeding stops, they need to search for the food you are not giving to them. This causes problems because the monkeys start looking in a garbage bin, stealing food in markets or attacking people who are eating to get their food. Humans are usually not very tolerant of these behaviors and start killing those individuals or groups that make these behaviors.

So, if you care about monkeys and are worried that groups of monkeys living close by to your town/ city don’t get enough food for living. There are other ways in which you can help them, such as planting fruit trees near to the areas where you usually see them, especially fruit trees that are native, the kind of trees where you had seen them eating or ask a biologist what kind of fruit tree can be useful for them.

Another thing you can do is to prevent the destruction of their habitat and increase the connectivity of the forest fragments where you see the monkeys moving. All the species are continuously moving in search of food but when the habitat is disrupted and they cannot pass to other forest areas, they just search for food where they can, even if that means garbage bins.

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Monkey Forest Tales: Group formation mechanisms in monkeys

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In my last post, we talk about two new observations made during this birth season, the possible fission of a large group of Colombian squirrel monkeys and the possibly new formation of a group of dusky titi monkeys.

After a conversation with one of the landowners in the area where he asked if that was good or not for the monkeys in the area, I decided to explain a bit more about the mechanisms of group formation in monkeys and what it means for the monkeys in the study area.

Monkey’s groups form in two main different ways:

  1. Because one big group is so big that the competition between individuals inside the group is high and as a mechanism to reduce this competition, the groups splits, and two new groups are formed. Sometimes this group division is accompanied by a division of the original home range or territory too. This is what we seem to be happening in the study area with one of the Colombian squirrel monkey’s groups.

 

  1. Because of a new pair of a female and a male mate and form a new reproductive unit. This is usually the case in monogamous species such as the dusky titi monkey.

Formation of new groups of monkeys can potentially mean an increase of the monkey’s population in the area only if those new groups produce new individuals that also reproduce themselves.

So for now, in the case of the Colombian squirrel monkeys, it is possible that the population in the area is increasing not only because of the group that we had been monitoring over the past 15 years have maintained its size and grow itself but also because we had observed new groups in the vicinity. However, this needs to be monitored with caution as the changing dynamic of the area. Those new groups could also be displaced groups from other nearby forest fragments where habitat quality has been reduced and food scarcity had led to those groups to move farther.

In the case of the dusky titi monkeys, we will need to wait for the next birth season to see if this new group establish itself and have babies. The number of groups of dusky titi monkeys in the area had remained stable over the past years and only sporadically we had seen individuals dispersing outside of the focal forest fragments. More data could be necessary to say with confidence if the population is increasing in the area.

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Monkey Forest Tales: It is the babies’ season in the study area

I’m writing today’s post from one of the farmhouses while observing the sunset. The sun is hiding behind the forest near to the house while I’m reflecting on the past day’s surveys. Red and orange colors fill the sky and a soft breeze fills the air with sweet smells. This is the time of the year where some trees produce flowers in the study area.

The dry season is at its fullest, strong winds and that smell to dry leaves that fill your lungs as soon as you enter the forest. There are just a few small ponds of muddy water in the stream bed. Birds and other animals are easily found around those muddy pounds. The ground is dry and covered with litter.

The dry season marks the birth season for dusky titi monkeys and Colombian squirrel monkeys. Although most births occur during January, in the past two years we were only able to visit the area during February. Still a good timing to count babies and enjoy the changes that dry season brings to the forest fragments.

Over the past days, we made surveys in all the small fragments that we still have access to the study area in search of monkey’s groups. Black-capped capuchins and red howler monkeys also have babies but a few months older than the Colombian squirrel monkeys and dusky titi monkeys.

As always the area gives not only the opportunity to see monkeys but also other mammals and birds. Woodpeckers are around and seem to have youngsters as well as the yellow-headed caracara. Coatis, giant anteater, tamanduas, and squirrels are around too. The scarlet ibis, a symbol of the Colombian Llanos are easy to be seen during this season around the small ponds in the stream beds of the forest fragments.

As a big surprise, we were able to see early in the morning on the third day a group of around 60 squirrel monkeys, including 10 babies from this season. The group split a bit latter in two subgroups but it seems they spend the night together. It is rare because usually, this group is not bigger than 35 individuals. A bit bigger than typical groups in the area, which usually have between 15 – 20 individuals.

There were at least three older females without babies (including Chela, who we mentioned before in another post). We only have seen squirrel monkey’s groups as big as today’s group in continuous areas, where up to 100 individuals can spend the night together and sometimes even a couple of days together. Can it be possible that we are seeing a new group formation (or better, a group fission) of Colombian squirrel monkeys? Hopefully, we will be able to answer this question in the following months.

We were less lucky at observing dusky titi monkeys during this field visit, however, we could at least verify that some groups are still present, some new babies and at least one baby from last year survived up to now. It also seems there is a new group in the process to be formed and/ or establish in one of our smallest forest fragments. But a closer observation is required to confirm this.

This dry season not only brought new babies this year but also more questions to answer for this amazing and dynamic system…

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