Intro to Woolly Monkey Identification

Written by R. Ellis

When I first arrived at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, I was confronted with a daunting reality: I was responsible for being able to individually recognize all 80 or so monkeys we observe. Of course, I knew this information coming in, but l didn’t understand how much of a challenge it would prove to be until the first time we followed a group. A recurring thought kept running through my head:  all of these monkeys look exactly the same! Telling the males apart from the females was easy enough, but distinguishing between individuals of the same sex seemed utterly impossible. To compound my fears, that first group was G, our largest group, with about 30 individuals. Briefly, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

Chromeo has a broken finger on his left hand that remains straight at all times, helping us identify him from other large males in surrounding groups

Chromeo has a broken finger on his right hand that remains straight at all times, helping us identify him from other large males in surrounding groups.

Fortunately, Kelsey had faith that learning all the individuals could be done, as she, along with her other field assistants, had achieved it the season prior. This gave me some respite, but I was still anxious that I would never be able to tell these monkeys apart.

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