Saturday, July 08, 2006

Monkeys are people

Just like the Chinese, many people think that all Howler monkeys look-alike and therefore are just analogs of each other. Nothing can be further from the truth in either case.
Each Howler that I have met has very distinct physical features and wide range of personality characteristics. I will give you a few examples.

Sussy, our sixteen year old, has been a mother many times and has a philosophical view of life. Sussy is always calm. She does not make friends easily but when she does, it is with trust and affection.

Totto is a newcomer and we have not yet explored his character completely but we do know that he is proud and macho. He can be aggressive. He is about six years old and is large. He likes women and has a deep suspicion of other males including human ones. So far, we have found that the way to his heart is through his stomach. He likes company and is now giving me a grudging welcome when I visit.

MonaLisa is unlike any Howler that I have met. She is patient, loving and fair; she will share her food with others without complaint. MonaLisa is domesticated and prefers living in the house to climbing the trees. Her favorite drink is coffee. Her best friend is Sophie whom she adores. Her favorite place is on the settee in front of the television. She has a blanket just like a child and covers herself with it whenever there is a storm.

Sophie is a neurotic. She is two years old. She hates young monkeys and will attack them if given a chance. She is always on guard. We have tried to understand this behavior but so far failed. She will not allow anyone to handle her although she will come and sit on your shoulder providing you do not touch her. Sophie is living with Marco and Sussy. She is greedy and will steal food from the others. She plays rough games with Marco. She adores MonaLisa. However, she does not like anyone else. Sophie has a distant respect for Sussy.

Marco is two and a half years old but looks older because of his size. He is very muscular and a great gymnast. He is a clown and will steal your hat or other item in your possession. Advice, do not take your eyes off him when you visit his house. He may come swinging towards you on one of his many ropes and give you a sound bang on the head. He is friendly but unpredictable.

Emma is young and pretty. She loves to show off her long legs by walking upright. She has a range of grimaces and expressions, which are unusual in Howlers. She is friendly and loves visitors. She shares with Schatov and adores him.

Schatov is young and hansom. He is small for his age but makes up for it with his athleticism. Schatov is difficult to photograph because he is always on the move. He has a habit of jumping on your head from a great distance and this can be painful. Schatov is another hat stealer so beware. He is delightful and friendly and loves visitors, especially female humans. He adores Emma and they play unceasing all day. (Except for midday when they sleep). They sleep together at night, snuggled up very close in one of their two houses.

Imanol is very young and domesticated He demands total twenty-four hour attention. This is not unusual in Howlers that have been taken from their natural mothers when they are very young. He is deeply suspicious of all other Howlers. MonaLisa would like to mother him but his suspicion will just not allow him to go to her. However, he has started to play chase with her and this is a very good sign. He is small but he has begun to work on the ropes and bamboo walkways in his garden and is putting on weight. He has a delightfully friendly manner. He likes to snuggle up close to humans and he gets on well with all the staff.

All these monkeys have one thing in common. They have spent a considerable amount of time with humans and their behavior has been modified by that contact. I would not expect a Howler in the wild to have many of these characteristics. Nevertheless, they are all different from each other. They have all developed differently in answer to their association with the human race.

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