Entry #6: Just Hanging Out

Written by: R. Reeder

Woolly monkeys don’t simply walk along branches to get from tree to tree. These arboreal monkeys also climb, leap, and even suspend (hang from the arms, legs and/or tail). Woollies, as well as spiders, howlers, and muriquis, are the four monkey species in the entire world that have prehensile tails, which means that their tails act like a fifth limb, making them extremely mobile in the canopy. Although they share this anatomical trait, all four species otherwise differ slightly in their anatomy and dominant modes of locomotion, giving each other a little more space as they move about in the forest. Continue reading

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Entry #4: Perks of Working in the Amazon

Written by: R. Reeder

There are often high expectations when traveling to the Amazon to see the amazing and exotic creatures that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. People hope to spot jaguars, giant otters, caiman, and the myriad of other species that call the Amazon home. The reality is that you would be extremely lucky to see one of these beautiful creatures. The inhabitants of the rainforest survive not by standing out, but by blending in. But wait, you might be thinking, you follow monkeys in the middle of the jungle every day from dawn until dusk, you must see all sorts of awesome animals! One of our co-workers here at Tiputini has worked here for a year now, and has yet to see a giant anteater or wild dog, let alone any sort of cat. Some people are luckier than others, but the general impression gathered from all of our experiences here is that the forest is generally a pretty quiet place, if you don’t include the ever-present racket of the monkeys. Well, I was lucky enough to see one of these amazing animals the other day, and the encounter definitely made me reconsider the rather comforting belief that I am more or less alone in the forest.

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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

Entry #1: Never Trust the Log

Written by: R. Reeder

Working in the Amazon rainforest, we are constantly surrounded by hundreds of different species of plants, birds, insects, and mammals. Yasuní National Park in particular may very well be the most biodiverse place in the entire world. Upon first arriving to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS), however, all we could see was a vast ocean of green that felt never-ending and filled every single space in every sort of way you can imagine. Everything looked…the same. This is actually one of the most interesting parts of the Amazon. Competition for survival in the rainforest is so intense that many species have evolved cryptic forms to survive: if an animal in the Amazon could choose any superpower, it would probably be invisibility. So although the Amazon is home to an amazing amount of biodiversity, it’s quite hard to see most of it. I admit to being slightly disappointed by this realization, but I’ve also learned that one must be patient, and more importantly, quiet, and then animals of all sorts seem to appear before your very eyes. Continue reading