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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