Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rosita the bag lady.

It takes 1000 years for a plastic bag to be finally decomposed.

I have several times posted about Rosita’s small size and how she is able to wriggle through the enclosure wire. Her birthday brought it home to me that she really should be bigger. Then when Tutti arrived the comparison in size was quite alarming. This 4 month old male was bigger than Rosita. We began with a batch of tests to determine whether there was an underlying cause for her apparent stunted growth. Parasites were ruled out and so was infectious disease. We separated her from her foster mother, MonaLisa, so we could observe her carefully. You will understand that in the group environment it is impossible to handle or observe a member of the group without interference from other members. This can be dangerous. If the group feels that you mean harm to a member then the whole family will attack fearlessly . In this family, MonaLisa, Emma, Nancy, Rosita, it is a case of ‘no fury like a woman scorned’.*

As a result of this separation, several things came to light.
We had already noted that Rosita was very interested in food. When ever food was served in other enclosures, Rosita, using her ability to wriggle through fences, would join each group and share their food. She would also come into the house when our own food was on the table. Why was it then, with this fascination with food, was she so small?
What became clear as a result of our closer study, was that she would only eat a small amount before moving on to the next dish. Even then she would select mouth size pieces and she has a small mouth. Our attention was further concentrated when we realized that recently she has been loosing tone in her arms and legs.

The present situation is that she is now with me all the time. She lives and sleeps in the house, away from other monkeys and is carefully observed during meal times. Her meals are carefully selected to be things that we know she likes and this food is available to her all day so that she can have a little, as and when she likes. She returns to her food table often during the day. This would be impossible in the group because at the end of meal time either all the food would have been consumed or it would have been distributed around the enclosure. Monkeys are not clean eaters. She has a regime of vitamins and calcium and fresh leaves from the forest every day. The result in a very short time has been quite dramatic. She is putting on weight and muscle tone.

* While many attribute the quote to William Shakespeare, it actually comes from a play called the "The Mourning Bride" (1697) by William Congreve. The complete quote is "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."

One thing has puzzled us; she loves to chew plastic bags. The chewing is quite vigorous. Naturally I view this as a bad habit, one has no idea what chemical deposit may be left over from the manufacturing process that might be harmful to a monkey. Plastic bags are everywhere in our society and it is difficult to prevent her from finding one. Needless to say as soon as this behavior is observed the bag is confiscated. She is not alone in the habit; MonaLisa also has a passion for chewing bags. I refuse unnecessary plastic bags when they are supplied in shops. It takes 1000 years for a plastic bag to be finally decomposed.
Our pictures are both of Rosita. One with a plastic bag and better one with a bunch of fresh leaves from the forest.

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