It’s Raining Monkeys!

Written by J. Mayo

In the four months that I have been working with the woollies here at Tiputini, I have seen seven monkeys fall out of trees. Thankfully all of them have been just fine, getting up and carrying on monkey business as usual. It’s not something I expected to encounter working here though, especially not at this rate. With their prehensile tails, incredible ability to judge distance and branch stability, and mad jumping skills, you would think they would have this arboreal thing down pat, right?

Photo of female woolly leaping through the trees. Photo was taken by Tim Laman from the canopy walkway at TBS. To read about how Tim took this picture follow this link

Photo of female woolly leaping through the trees. Photo was taken by Tim Laman from the canopy walkway at TBS. To read about how Tim took this picture click here.

Let’s take a second to think about reasons why woollies might fall out of trees:
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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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The Big Bad Clash

Written by R. Ellis

It isn’t often that New World monkeys depart from the safety of the towering trees they call home. In fact, when studying Neotropical primates, researchers spend most of their day looking up 20-30 meters into the canopy, watching the animals go about their lives in the skies.  Some monkeys, like spiders and howlers, will come down to eat the mineral rich clay of salt licks, but it is very uncommon to see a woolly come down deliberately (falling out of the tree on accident, on the other hand, is a different story). Accordingly, it’s always exciting to see any arboreal monkey plant its toes into the terrestrial environment, but on this day, it was an extraordinary and exhilarating experience. Continue reading

Coco and Conrad are missing…

Coco&Conrad (3) Dec 2014

Coco & Conrad are missing from group C – Coco is a large adult female with long, dark chest fur and a small pink spot on her left breast and on her inner left thigh. Her son, Conrad, is a young juvenile male best described as an old man trapped in a tiny body (think woolly monkey version of Benjamin Button). They were last seen on December 7, 2014 near camp happily foraging with other members of their group. Everyone from group C, especially Chloe, Coco’s daughter and Conrad’s big sister, are patiently awaiting their return. Not knowing their whereabouts (i.e. if they are simply living in a new group now or if they are actually deceased) is very stressful. If found, please let them know that they are sorely missed and if they’ve decided that their new home is better than their last the least they could do is send a trill or two our way to let us know that they are okay.

Missing Poster

Entry #3: Group C in the Big Fig

Written by L. Millington

When you study arboreal primates you learn to deal with the fact that almost everything they do will be at least 20 m off the ground in dense forest canopy. This means that most of our time is not necessarily viewing the monkeys but dancing around on the forest floor until we finally locate the tiniest of windows in the understory affording us equally tiny glimpses in to the lives of the monkeys above. As you can imagine, the arboreal lifestyle of our study species doesn’t leave us with too many chances to get up close and personal with them, so when we had the opportunity to watch them feed in a large fig tree from the canopy walkway (one of the most amazing places at Tiputini) we were truly lucky. We had followed group C all day…

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Entry #2: Conrad the Conqueror…of Hearts

Written by: R. Reeder

One of the best parts of watching the woollies is getting to see them interact with each other.  One age class in particular takes the cake for cutest interactions, and these are the infants/juveniles of the group. While the adults sleep after a long period of fruit foraging, you’ll often notice the babies quietly playing among the branches close to their mothers. I’ve grown particularly fond of one individual: Conrad. He’s very small, stays close to Coco, his mother, although he is independent enough that he is usually not actually on his mother. Conrad is also the Benjamin Button of the group. He is the youngest individual in Group C, yet his face is old and wrinkled, his body fragile-looking. But, despite his odd-looking features, he’s got a lot of gumption. He’s the infant I see instigating all the play sessions with the other kids. These play sessions are some of the highlights of my time watching the woollies. You can’t help but smile as you watch them. While playing, Conrad and whomever he convinced to join him are hanging from their tails from a branch, swinging towards and away from each other, wrestling.  Conrad is always the smaller individual, and so usually isn’t much competition for the other, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in energy. He is relentless. He will harass them until they are forced to put some muscle behind their actions to stop the little pest. During one of these play bouts Conrad was climbing all over a subadult male, Cuzco, who finally got fed up and put Conrad in a headlock. He eventually released him and walked away, but Conrad didn’t seem to mind. His sheer persistence had made him the clear winner of the wrestling match. Continue reading