Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Early Mornings and Stubborn Monkeys

These past few days have been full of monkey-related confusion.  I thought that I'd been following G4 this entire time....'thought' being the operative word.  I'd studied their pictures, learned their family history, and heard stories about their individual personalities.  Well, a skype meeting with Kim (our main monkey lady) changed everything.  Evidently, the territory that I've been roaming about it, hacking trails in, and - true confessions - peeing in, isn't even G4 territory.  WHAT?  Yeah, I know.  Come to find out, it's actually GN territory.  GN and G4, although very different in their personalities and physical appearances, can be easily confused by the untrained eye (with the untrained eye being myself and GN's stalker/observer).  Both groups have five individuals...mommy, daddy, offspring #1, #2, and #3...and both groups have a new tiny baby titi.  Since neither of us newbie researchers are familiar enough with the families yet, we don't know who's been following whom, or who those whoms are, or why those whoms are where they are if they're not really supposed to be there.  I feel like I'm kind of at a standstill...since I don't even know what group it is that I'm watching.  If these stubborn monkeys would let me take better pictures, then maybe we could clear up this whole mess.  But vines, and branches, and sunrises, and timid monkeys make photographing them very difficult.  I went all day yesterday thinking it might be GN that I've been watching...and by the end of the day, I convinced myself that yes, it must be GN.  But, our trainer Vanessa is still insisting that my monkeys are G4.  I feel like right now, since I still can't really tell them all apart, I could probably convince myself that these monkeys look like any group in the park.  #primateproblems

Today was a weird day in my monkey watching world.  Nothing seemed to fit right.  Fit...yes that's the word I want.  Nothing seemed to fit.  Things actually went rather well though.  Monkeys were found and monkeys were followed and data was collected.  But things were just off.  Good news though: ALL the monkeys were vocalizing today!  I hadn't heard my group, or any other group, do any sort of "waka waka" or "boop boop" in days.  Seemed like everyone was talkative this morning (check out the video below).  The thing I love most about vocalizing titi monkeys?  YOU CAN FIND THEM.

I spotted two of my titis (G4? GN??) perched atop a branch near the northwestern corner of their territory around 7:30 this morning.  An hour and a half of unsuccessful titi searching made me thankful to hear those early AM calls from my group.  The two began to vocalize...and tail twine - my favorite...and were soon joined in song by a nearby group.  Weird thing though, the nearby call appeared to be nearby enough to be in my group's territory.  We've had some mixing and mashing of titi turf, so maybe that's what I was hearing?  One group in another's territory?  Then again, I could only see two of my five (plus an infant) monkeys...could different members of the same group be co-vocalizing from that far away?  A third individual approached the duet a few minutes later and the three then jumped a few branches to a neighboring tree where they vocalized a little longer.  Vocalizing evidently works up an appetite, because shortly thereafter, my titi trio moved on to foraging in a nearby paraíso tree.  Foraging in a paraíso tree?  Normal.  Foraging in this paraíso tree??  It was in a part of their territory I had not seen them in previously.  The territory is bound by four major trails, and while I've observed them crossing over the southern trail (lots of branches overhead), I've never seen them cross over the trail to the west.  I'VE NEVER EVEN SEEN THEM GO NEAR THAT ROAD.  Were they here because another group - the vocalizing ones - are pushing into their territory?  Do they come here often and I've just never followed them here before?  Why were these three here foraging (one of which was my male with tiny titi in tow) without the other two?  Up until now, they've always foraged together, or at least in the same vicinity.  All of these things combined made the day weird.  I lost track of the group around 9:30 and wasn't able to find them for the rest of the day....and we didn't leave until 1:00 PM.  That's a long time without monkeys.  I'm pretty sure they were camped out somewhere cool and shady.  Usually by 10:30, anywhere not in the shade is basically unbearable.  It gets really hot.

Feeding on some paraíso.
The next few days are full of plant taxonomy-ing and phenology-ing, so I probably won't see my monkey family until Monday.  I think I'll miss their cute little furry faces, but hopefully next time we meet, everything will be normal and wonderful.  And not weird.  Like today.

FUN SCIENCE FACT #7:  The aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a lemur that uses its extra long and slender middle finger to pull grubs out of trees.  Look it up on google will give you nightmares.  Creepiest primate award goes to the aye-aye.  No question.  

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