Since coming to work here I’ve learned a great deal about monkeys. Since we are a primate conservation organization this obviously makes a lot of sense. All of the other expats that we have working with us have extensive experience working with primates from various locations like Madagascar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Amazon Basin, Australia and various other exotic locations. I have never worked in an area with primates and my knowledge of primates was basic, at best. I was intimidated and embarrassed when I first met them and realized they were such experts. They would sit around and discuss the behaviors of various monkeys in different groups, vocalization calls, dominance hierarchies and mating cycles. I felt especially strange considering that not only were these people primate people but they were more generally animal people. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy animals as much as the next guy but I’m certainly not putting my cat and dog next to me in my Christmas card. I tend to like ‘useful’ animals such as dogs for security, chickens for egg production and cats to control rodent populations. This became even more apparent when we were all relaxing in the house in Calabar and we cornered a mouse. I said I was going to stomp him and they looked at me horrified saying, ‘We usually opt for catch and release’.
I knew I’d have to beef up on my primate knowledge and luckily for me, education is a huge component of what we do here. We have ‘education centers’ at our main headquarters in Calabar as well as at Rhoko Camp. At Rhoko Camp we have Mangabey and Mona monkeys. These monkeys are being rehabilitated with the long term goal of reintroduction to the forest area. At Calabar we have six different types of primate species, from two families of primates: the guenons, small, compact, long-tailed monkeys and mangabeys, more robust larger long tailed monkeys. Currently we are rehabilitating 6 different species: 5 guenons and the red capped mangabey.
My favorite species of monkey is the putty-nosed, aptly named due to it’s long white nose. They are very cute and likewise very playful. I think the tantalus monkeys look the coolest, though we only have a few in Calabar. I have learned so much about their social structure, behaviors and importance to forest ecology. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘If you’ve learned so much, give us an example!’…well, I’ll try to think of some interesting ones. Most importantly, if a monkey is attacking you, it’s best to lay down in a fetal position and be very submissive. Most monkeys don’t want to kill you, rather they want to establish their dominance over you. However, if you are dealing with a chimpanzee, this is entirely different. I’ve learned that one of the first thing a male chimp will do if he’s fighting you is rip off your testicles. So yeah, don’t mess with a chimp(we don’t have any here). Chimpanzee’s actually belong to the ‘ape’ family, along with humans and gorillas. But still, interesting facts to know if there is even a slight chance of running into a wild chimpanzee (which there is).
I’ve really grown to appreciate my animal loving coworkers and their knowledge. I’ve always been interested in evolution and learning about the behaviors of different primates provides some pretty stimulating thoughts on human behavior, instincts and history. I find myself giving a lot of lectures about primates and although I usually focus on their importance on forest ecology, I feel much better than when I first arrived. I am still learning new things about the different species everyday but that’s what makes it fun! Just the other day I was giving some people a tour of our facilities in Calabar and they asked me how long putty-nosed monkeys live. Although I know they are some of the smallest old world monkeys, practice concealed ovulation and are members of the guenon family…I’m not quite sure how long they live. So I asked one of our Nigerian keepers and they informed us they can live up to 25 years. When surrounded by so many knowledgeable people it’s easy to soak up information and I have really been enjoying learning these random (Gibbons are monogamous) and useful (Chimps will rip your balls off) facts.
Ed. Note: I apologize for not having more pictures, our download/upload speeds here are atrocious. I will update with pictures of these different species when possible…in the meantime try google images.