Every day when the tours are over at 12 PM, the monkeys start going wild, pooping and peeing everywhere and swinging around their cage. They know it’s forest time. To have a successful transition back into the wild, the monkeys are free to explore the jungle every day for several hours. The teenage girls can go out and flirt with other males, and the males can practice their tree jumping. When picnic time is over, if they are in the vicinity we bring them back with us, or if not they can stay in the jungle for a few nights, weeks, months or forever. The hope is that they meet different wild troops in the area and eventually can join one when they are old enough.
I’ve been looking forward to this monkey picnic since I got here and was finally able to go a few days ago. Women volunteers are generally not allowed, or at least not alone, because there are two aggressive females who don’t like the female volunteers. On my first trip to the forest, the ‘mean’ monkey immediately jumped on me and starting licking me. The owner thought that was a good sign and I was hopeful that I could spend more time out there. My second time, they both attacked me, scratching at my face, neck, and pulling at my hair. Good thing there was a big, strong Canadian there to yank them off me. (I kept that visit’s event to myself). But my third time, I was able to lay in the hammock, snuggle with all the monkeys and leave generally scratch-free. Though every time they walked by, I did flinch and say “is this her?!?”. I’m pretty sure they were just trying to mess with my head.
At 12PM, we grab all the monkeys by their tails, (after the babies have had their bottles of course) swing them onto our backs or shoulders, some hang down our bodies, and we march out to the forest. As soon as we’re close enough to the opening, they bounce off your head and into the trees, where they jump and swing and play for hours.
Narea the spider monkey hung out with me on the hammock, she’d run up the side then jump onto my stomach like I was a trampoline. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, but every time I tried to capture it on video, she’d get distracted by my phone and start sticking it in her mouth. Some of the of the baby howlers would come down to play too, all climbing to the top then landing on my stomach. When Chipeto, an 2 year old male grew tired of playing, he’d come and hang with the babies and I on the hammock. He’s a pretty cute snuggler as well.
By the end of the three hours, everyone is pretty tired and ready for a nap. Myself included. I have been abused like a bouncy house and was bruised up, covered in animal crap and my was being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
But not tired enough to start whacking through the forest with a sharp machete, cutting down branches, grass, and playing ‘slice through the cocoa pod’. I came in 2nd place. (Ok, fine, there were only two of us, but STILL!) Watch out y’all, I’m dangerous!
And that was my last day at the Jaguar Rescue Center, it’s been a great couple of weeks, and I’m sad to leave all my new people and animals friends behind, but excited for a week at the beach with my family!
Dad, I’d like hummus, bell peppers, and a delicious healthy meal waiting for me at the airport, and the words ‘rice and beans’ need not be mentioned for the next week or anywhere is my eyesite. Thank you.