Monkey Forest Tales: Balance of Zocay Project for 2021

Today’s post is my usual balance of Zocay Project for 2021, although this year was as challenging as 2020, there were something we were able to achieve and others that still scape our reach.

As we proposed we continue our long-term wildlife monitoring in the study area, we were able to verify the birth of infants for all primate species. We also observed infants of giant anteaters and coatis during this year. We also were able to continue monitoring a couple of groups in Villavicencio city. As well as a successful campaign of citizen science reporting primate species in several towns of the Colombian Llanos.

We also were able to update the distribution of dusky titi monkey with the help of local people from some of the areas in which researchers are not able to get access, something that is still very common in Colombia. This year we also were able to collect some additional data on other native fauna in the region and their use of water sources used by cattle.

Finally, we were able to expand our collaborations in the region working with Cumaral Biodiversa, a local organization in Cumaral town. Our work with them is focus on Brumback night monkey distribution with very interesting data we hope to publish in the new year, as it is need it because of the lack of data in this interesting species.

However, we still don’t have a clear idea and a good data set for the effects of road killing on primates and other fauna in the urban and rural areas of the region. Or about the economic cost of crop-raiding by black-capped capuchins on perennial crops in the region and the monitoring of threats for native fauna in the region

Let’s hope the new year bring us more collaborations and that we will be able to continue studying and monitoring all the monkey species in the study area. Happy New Year to all! We wish you all a 2022 full of health, love, collaborations and monkeys!!!

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Monkey Forest Tales:  Merry Christmas from Zocay Project to you

Today’s post will be a short one, we just want to wish you a Merry Christmas to all of you from Zocay Project. From Zocay project family, especially the monkeys in this project, to your family. We hope you can enjoy the happiness of the season despite the troubles of covid-19 and the new variant.

Keep safe and don’t forget to support us by buying your Christmas gifts and other gidts at https://fineartamerica.com/art/xyomara+carretero

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Monkey Forest Tales: It is that time of the year again to Celebrate monkeys!!!

We are near to the end of the 2021 and it is time again to celebrate monkeys. Every year on December 14th, we celebrate monkeys’ diversity and use this day to raise awareness on the threat they and their habitats face.

So, in today’s post I want to talk about the monkeys in Zocay Project. As you know by now, we work with five species of monkeys. Monkeys that live in large and small groups, are big and small, have few or lots of babies. Use trees all the time or sometimes go to the ground. But all have long tails and play on the branches of big trees. They eat fruits, flowers, and different kinds of animals.

Today’s post is also to celebrate the high diversity of primates we have in Colombia. With 38 species and subspecies of monkeys living in forest of different sizes from sea level to the mountains. They help to growth the forest and create new homes for small spiders and insects.

But how can we take care of them? Protecting the forest in which they live and planting fruit trees from their region in the areas close to the forest in which they live. Not buying small baby monkeys, just because they look cute. Monkey babies need their groups and moms in the same way we need our moms and families, so don’t buy them!!!!

Don’t forget to support us by buying your Christmas gifts in https://fineartamerica.com/art/xyomara+carretero

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Monkey Forest Tales:  How to evaluate your education activities in the field?

Over the past week we made a couple of education/ informative activities about our project in the town with kids and adults. Usually after this kind of activities, I ask myself how I can improve the impact of Zocay project in the area. Also, people ask me how to evaluate if the information we give is accepted and probably implemented by participants.

Generally, education activities that are well planned implies a measure of evaluation in terms of evaluations done before and after each education activity. How well participants respond to those questions after the activity compared with their answers before the activity give you a measure of how much they understand and “incorporate”.

For this kind of evaluations, you must have in mind the audience you have and education. Did they write and read? How old are they? This will help you to implement strategies to make possible to really evaluate your activity. For example, with small kids or adults that don’t write and read, a strategy that worked for me in different contexts is to use multiple choice question and ask verbally to choose an answer and count the number of participants who choose each option for both evaluations (before and after activity).

When giving a more informative activity, for example a talk to local authorities, how can you measure if they listen to your talk. You can also implement a few questions at the beginning and end of your talk to evaluate the impact of your talk or use the questions they do after the talk to measure how clear you deliver the information, how clear was your message and if you need to make a follow up activity that can increase your impact on that specific audience.

So, the message I will like you to take from this post is that before delivering any informative or education activity, stop to think how to evaluate that activity you are going to give so you can plan to increase your impact. Adjust your questions to your audience and the topics of your talk. Have a clear message that is easy to understand for you audience background and don’t forget to evaluate it.

Don’t forget to support us by buying your Christmas gifts in https://fineartamerica.com/art/xyomara+carretero

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Monkey Forest Tales:   Celebrating the biggest cat in South America: Jaguar

This week we celebrate Jaguar, a day to raise awareness for one of the three biggest wild cats in the world, after tiger and lions. And the biggest cat in South America. I had the fortune of had seen this wonderful animal two times in two different areas of Colombia: transition area between Orinoquia and Amazonian region and in the Amazon basin. At Las Pampas landscape, in the study area, we only had been able to find tracks and footprints, but not sightings of this impressive animal.

My first time was the more impressive and memorable time. In the following section I will describe this encounter and my feelings and perceptions of that encounter:

“It was a cold morning, I woke up early as I had done for the last month or so, I was ready to follow the group of red howler monkeys. It was like any other morning in the jungle. I woke up around 5 am and dress up in my long black pants, rubber boots and long sleeve shirt that belonged to my father. Prepare my coffee and my cup of cereal. Last night I made part of my lunch ready, white rice. I added some tuna with small pieces of fresh tomato. It was one of my favorites. It was rare to have fresh tomato, but the vegetables had arrived just a few days before and there were still fresh.

After taking my breakfast and packing my lunch and water, I was ready to go and find the red howler group that I was studying. The day before, the group went to sleep in a dense vine area around 500 m from the camp towards south. The trail goes from the campsite up to a hill and then down to a small stream valley.

I started to walk, that hill always take me some time, I always had respiratory problems and that hill always make me wonder why I choose to follow monkeys in a hilly area of the jungle. Well, maybe it was because of the challenge. I had always liked to challenge my own limits, especially my body limits and every hill was that, a challenge, a test to my weak lungs.

Once on the top of the hill, I stopped to recover my breath, when I saw a dark shadow walking towards me, I wasn’t sure at first what was I looking at. Then very slowly I realized it was a Jaguar, a big one, with his wide head, strong legs and soft fur. I couldn’t believe what I was looking. The jaguar didn’t stop walking towards me, he didn’t notice me staring at him, just a few meters ahead. Suddenly, he stops, look at me and start moving his tail from one side to the other. It was like a pendulum.

My mind was hypnotized by his tail movement, I was thinking how it will feel to touch him, his soft fur seems to be like a hypnotic element to her. Part of my brain, the rational one, make me stop that idea. He was just looking deep into my eyes. I felt naked, but not the naked feeling of not having your cloths on, not that one. A naked feeling deep in your soul, as if some kind of X ray were passing through me and were showing him every part of my body and soul, both at the same time. It was a mesmerizing moment.

I didn’t know how long this encounter last it, but it was profound, and it has a huge impact in my life and my day. After what it looks like ten minutes, maybe less, that magic connection just broke. The jaguar jumps to my right side and disappear into the jungle. I took a couple of minutes to process what just happen and continue my walk towards the place where I found my group of monkeys. I followed the group taking notes of the babies and their mothers’ behavior without thinking too much on my morning encounter.

At some points during the day, I felt as if someone was looking at me, the group has been hiding in a dense vine area for days, sleeping long hours and eating mostly leaves. I wondered if the jaguar had followed me. If he did, he had an advantage I was in a place difficult to get out, surrounded by vines with thorns.

Despite my feeling of being observed the whole day, nothing happens, and I finished my day around 5 pm, leaving my study group next to the stream in some Guadua trees. I started my way back to the camp site and when I was close to the camp, I hear the howlers, my group, vocalizing. I thought again about the jaguar and my feeling of being observed the whole day but try not to be afraid for the monkeys.”

My second time lasted less time and it felt like looking to a fast-moving film, with a couple of shadows moving some meters in front of me and the indigenous guide who was with me.

Jaguar presence in Zocay Project study area had been confirmed only in the biggest forest fragments of the whole area in Las Pampas landscape. There are a few reports of cattle attacked by Jaguar and Cougar in the area. However it seems despite of the fragmentation in the area they are still able to survive, at least in parts of the area where there is native preys available.

Don’t forget to support us by buying your Christmas gifts in https://fineartamerica.com/art/xyomara+carretero

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Monkey Forest Tales: Challenges of working in urban versus rural areas: questions

In today’s post we talk about another challenge of working in urban versus rural areas. We are going to talk about the differences in the type of questions that these different systems can address as well as some challenges to answer those questions.

Rural and urban areas represent different kind of threats for wildlife, and even if threats are the same (e.g. road killing) frequency and severity of those threat are not necessarily the same in urban versus rural areas. Therefore, questions varies and the way to measure those threats also varies.

For example, is common to use camera traps located in wildlife crossing to measure road killing and the use of wildlife crossing measures (e.g. canopy bridges). In urban areas, one of the challenges is to avoid people to destroyed, rob or vandalized camera traps. Because these camera traps are usually located in a more populated areas, more visible and usually area where several illegal activities occur, it is more common that we lose our equipment, or it is vandalized. Although this can also happen in rural areas where illegal hunting occurs, it is more common in urban areas.

Something that usually helps is to socialize your activities with the people living nearby to the areas where you will put your camera traps. Involving local people and then sharing pictures you take of all the animals living close to them, sometimes helps to avoid issues of vandalizing equipment as they help you to take care of that equipment.

Another challenge of working in urban areas is robbery of your equipment while doing observations. We usually use cameras, binocular and GPS to collect specific data when doing behavioral and ecological studies with monkeys. In urban areas, especially close to forest remanent is common to be robed. Those are places that sometimes are isolated or with few public lights, therefore is easy to be robbed. Although not as precise as a GPS, phone apps to collect GPS locations can help. I don’t recommend going with cameras and use cameras in your phone to take specific pictures to illustrate your work and always work in pair to reduce some risks of working in urban areas. Not all urban areas represent the same risk and I’m especially referring to conditions of working in Colombian cities.

Don’t forget to support us by buying your Christmas gifts in https://fineartamerica.com/art/xyomara+carretero

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Monkey Forest Tales: We need your help!!!

Over the years Zocay Project had different sources of funding, a few small grants, support from some farms and funding form my personal projects as well as my own personal funds to cover field work (last four years). However pandemic and economic situation in Colombia is making more difficult to continue supporting this project through my personal funds, so in today’s post I am asking you to help us continue with our fieldwork.

How can you do it? I made a webpage in Fine Art America where you can buy prints and other products using my wildlife pictures (https://fineartamerica.com/art/xyomara+carretero). Think about giving a Christmas present that also support the work that we do in the places where wildlife live. All pictures were taken by me over the past 10 years of field work in Colombian Orinoquia and Amazonian forest. All pictures are from animals whose distribution include the Zocay Project study area.

What activities will you support? Mainly you will support our cost to go to field sites in San Martín area (Meta), Villanueva area (Casanare) and some places in Villavicencio (Meta) to count monkeys next year. All these places are in Colombian Llanos and are part of our continuous field sites (Villavicencio and Villanueva were included in 2019).

This work is especially important during January to April as well as during June to August and a final season in October and November. During the first months of the year is important for us to visit as much sites as possible as it is Colombian squirrel monkey and dusky titi monkeys birth season. During midyear months we are monitoring the Colombian squirrel monkey mating season as well as trying to identify the reason for an aggregation of black-capped capuchin groups that seems to occur every year during June or July but not seems to be related to any fruiting pattern that we had identified yet. Last months of the year sampling help us monitor the birth season from all the other monkey species in the are that doesn’t have a seasonal pattern.

What kind of expenses will you support? Most of the expenses we cover during our fieldwork includes food, transport, and materials at the study sites from students and me working in the field, and in a few places, some support for logging, although most farms in which we work we don’t have to pay for this item. In a few places also you will help us cover field assistant salaries.

We appreciate any support you can give us to continue our work for the conservation of monkey species in Colombian Llanos. If you want support us in any other form, please don’t hesitate to send us an email to xcarretero@zocayproject.com, xcarretero@gmail.com

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Monkey Forest Tales: Challenges of working in urban versus rural areas: Logistics

Over the past two years. Zocay Project had included a small monitoring of primate populations in urban areas additional to its initial monitoring in rural areas dedicated to cattle ranching. In today’s post I want to mention some challenges to working at both areas, some considerations that you may need to think about while planning.

Working in rural areas implies logistic planning that need to incorporate accommodation, transport, landowners permit to enter to the field sites and in some cases additional permits from local actors. Additionally, people working at rural areas usually come from other regions or countries, which means you also need to plan and understand how to deal with cultural differences.

Working in urban areas also implies some of those same challenges and requires logistic planning. Depending on the researcher knowledge of the city, some cultural adjustments are also necessary.

Although, security issues should be considered in both cases, how you deal with and how much risk you can have from robbery is different and you need to plan accordingly. It seems this is not always considered while planning urban projects, especially in countries like Colombia.

In our case, there are areas in the city where we work that we can just not sample, even if access seems feasible, because it represents an additional risk of robbery and in some cases, even a risk to our lives.

So, if you are planning an urban survey, additional to the usual considerations about accommodation, transport and permits that you consider for your rural projects. You also need to consult with people living in the city you are going to work in about security issues related to robbery. For example, which areas are dangerous if you carry equipment like cameras, binoculars, SPS. Which neighborhoods needs special considerations in terms of transport access and council information to allow you to work there. Finally, don’t assume that if you live in that city, you won’t need to plan your survey schedules and consider additional local help, just because you are in a city. Plan in advance financially and logistically.

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Monkey Forest Tales: About Ecology Day…What is Ecology and why is important to all of us

This week there were a celebration of the ecology day. Another day to celebrate nature. But what is ecology? And why is it important for all of us? So, on today’s post we are going to talk about it.

Ecology is the study of the relationship between living things and their environment, this means how they interact with the water, soil, and air. But why is it important for us because we are living beings and like animals and plants we also depend on and relate with the environment that surround us.

Most humans living in cities kind of forget that we are part of nature, and we relate with nature in the same way that plants and animals do. Even some kids thinks that chicken comes from a fridge in the supermarket and not other place. An idea that if you think about it make sense if they never see a chicken outside of the fridge, in a farm.

In today’s world when we have so many crises in our hands, pandemic, climate crisis and biodiversity loss is important to remind ourselves, as well as teach our kids about the importance of our relationship with nature and how best to relate with it. Nature gives you strength, happiness, and peace of mind. For me nature is my natural recharger, is in nature where I made the best decisions of my life, is where I go to think and where I’m reminded of how much monkeys means to me and why I decide to dedicate my live to them.

So, in this post we just want to remind you that ecology and nature is important for all of usand we should be teaqching ourselves as well as our kids to remain connected with the only force that can save us and our planet…NATURE!!!

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Monkey Forest Tales: News from the field: howlers everywhere

Today’s post is written while in the field. Every time we spend time in the field, the experience is different. Sometimes we saw just a few groups in each fragment or no groups at all. This usually happens in the smallest fragment in which monkeys seems to be prone to hide more often or just use it more temporally. Other times, we see almost all groups in the area in just one field trip.

In this field trip this seems to be the case for red howler monkeys, except from the group in the smallest fragment, we saw all groups. It was a nice surprise and even more as there are three pregnant females in different forest fragments. Although we had seen pregnant females before it is always great to see new ones.

Howler usually have babies every 3 – 4 years, so a new baby is always a great news. Hopefully in our next month visit we will find newborns in these groups. Because howlers had this long interval between births, it is so important every time a new baby is born in a group. Babies depends on their moms for everything during the first two months but remains closer to them until their 10 months of life. The process to reach adulthood in howlers is a long one, with females getting their first baby around their 4th year of live.

So, in this fieldtrip, we saw red howlers in every walk, basically everywhere. For me, red howler monkeys are special, not only because my first monkey study was with this species, but also because to see them and waking up to the sound of their high vocalizations is the best way to wake up for me. So, the best of this fieldtrip was to see that despite of living in fragments, red howler monkeys are reproducing, and soon new babies will come to this planet. Let’s hope this species continue surviving despite all the threats to their habitat.

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