Monkey Forest Tales: What is the difference of working with monkeys between fragmented and continuous forest

Sometimes when talking with students there are questions about how different is to work with monkeys in different types of forest, how different is to work in a fragmented area versus a continuous forest. Today’s post is about this topic from my personal perspective.

When I started working with monkeys, I did it in a continuous forest, but when I started Zocay Project, monkeys were in a fragmented area. Continuous forest usually have higher canopies than fragmented areas and the canopy is more dense and continue. Therefore, monkeys have more places to hide and if they are scared they can climb higher too.

Terrain conditions in fragmented and continuous forest can be rough, with small hills and swamp areas to walk in, so they can both be challenging sometimes depending on were they are located.

Along the Amazon river, at least in the border area between Colombia, Brazil and Peru, forest can be different depending on the season. For example during rainy season when the river water is high and the forest along the river is flooded. Following monkeys can be difficult and usually you will need a small canoe to follow them. By those same monkeys can be followed by walking when is the dry season and the river water is low.

Usually when working with monkeys in continuous forest you work inside or nearby to indigenous communities so you usually also work with some of the hunters in those communities that helps you as local guides to help you find the monkeys you are studying.

When working in fragmented areas, you follow monkeys in forest fragments surrounded by people (peasant, indigenous, farmers, etc.), therefore, you also have to work with people from different education and interests that may or may not like the monkeys you are working with.

Forest fragments can have thick areas difficult to access, but good for monkeys to hide, so despite of forest fragment sizes, sometimes monkeys are difficult to find. Also working in fragmented areas means that you have to work sometimes closer to roads or near to crops and other activities that make the monkeys more nervous and difficult to follow.

So as you see working in continuous and fragmented forest have some challenges depending on the terrain as well as how much people is nearby. Both are rewarding once you manage to habituate the group of monkeys you want to follow or just every time you see them. And on both the most important thing to have in mind is to be persistent and patience with yourself.

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