Heading up to the trees with Lolita.
Lying in bed last night I realized that we haven't been taking Lolita out of the cage because we no longer trust Chiquito, who at 3 1/2 often exhibits frustration and aggression. Lolita has never been aggressive. She's younger, female, and has a completely different temperament. We trusted her with our 18 month old grandson, and we trust her with the infant howler monkeys. Chiquito? Never.
Paul wasn't asleep yet, and he had a hard time falling asleep after I suggested it. Even though we were able to successfully take Chiquito into the jungle on a leash when he was younger and then turn him loose to explore, he couldn't be free in our yard - all he wanted to do was break into the house. (The two times he escaped and got inside were disastrous. Short of swinging from the chandelier...only because we don't have one...he left a wide path of destruction.)
Safety on Mom.
A dash for the raisin.
Fortunately, Lolita was the sweetie she always is. In fact, it was hard to get her off me.
(Photo credit to Paul)
Eating on the run...
Back to Mom.
Viewed from our front door.
Viewed from upper lot. Old cages on left.
Viewed from upper lot. New cages.
It took months longer than I anticipated, but the carport and cages above it are finally finished (although both new cages still need another climbing tree or two).
The carport has electricity and water. There's a large slop sink against the wall to Paul's "bodega" or storage shed, and a septic tank under the carport that services the monkey cages and slop sink.
The cage has four separate areas. When you come up the steps, the door is in the middle and opens into a hallway that's the human cage, with the monkey cages on either side. At the end of that hallway is a door to the transfer area, which has pulley-operated doors to both large cages...that way Paul can move a monkey into the transfer/holding location before he washes their cage. The human and transfer cages are two-thirds the height of the other cages, so Lolita can actually climb and play above them. Chiquito's cage is a rectangle, so he can't hang out over the human or transfer cages. He's potentially too dangerous as a three-and-a-half year old male to give him, and the long reach of his arms and tail, more than one wall in common with human occupants.
Come December and the dry season, we'll try to find an older female spider monkey to keep Lolita company, and Chiquito "entertained." The baby howler monkeys might also be ready to spend their afternoons in the isolation cage beside Lolita.
Lolita's cage is on the left.
The human cage is in the middle.
Chiquito's cage is on the right.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff http://www.amcostarica.com/There may not yet be a drunken monkey on the bar menu, but there is a spider monkey, a drink made with creme de banana, Kahlua and ice cream.
But this is about real drunken monkeys, the kind that are presumed to lurch through the forest after eating certain fermenting fruits.
A University of California at Berkeley professor has advanced what is being called the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis in which he suggests that humans are genetically disposed to ethanol. Fruit, particularly in the tropics, frequently ferments and produces ethanol, a type of drinking alcohol.
The professor, Robert Dudley, outlined his ideas in a 2004 academic article and a 2005 book.
But no one has really discussed the topic with monkeys.
The health benefits of low-level alcohol consumption are consistent with an ancient and potentially adaptive exposure to this common, psychoactive substance, suggests the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The institute is where another California professor and a graduate student are testing this hypothesis.
The institute identified her as Christina Campbell, associate professor of anthropology at California State University Northridge.
She has been studying spider monkeys since 1996 and will be checking the alcohol content of Spondias mombin, a mango relative extremely important in the monkeys’ diet, said the institute.
They will be in the field attempting to get samples of the fruit and from the monkeys for more than a year, the institute said.
Dudley has said via the academic literature that understanding the primate's attraction to alcohol might be important to understanding human abuse of liquor.
Frank Buck, the famous early 20th century animal collector, has reported that natives in Asia used to capture powerful adult orangutans by making available in the jungle large tubs of alcohol. The orangutan quickly gulped down the drink and collapsed into a drunken sleep, thus making capture easy.
Primates have been eating fermented fruit for 40 million years, said the Smithsonian. That means ingesting alcohol may give some kind of evolutionary advantage to the drinker. That's a good excuse, anyway.
Chiquito reaches out and draws Olivier's head toward his chest.
Greeting involves touch and smell, without eye contact.
Chiquito has only seen Olivier six times over the past eighteen months, when Olivier comes to do his quarterly inspection as our regent biologist. Nevertheless, he's one of Chiquito's favorite people. Chiquito greets Olivier by offering him a pectoral sniff...the ultimate spider monkey embrace. Eye contact, which would be rude, is carefully avoided by both parties.
We had two young women visit today, Melissa who is a Tica from San Ramon, and Haley Hill Pearson, an American who is on her dream visit to Costa Rica, photographing and volunteering with wildlife. Lolita was equally fascinated by Melissa's colorful head scarf and Haley's SLR camera, and it made me feel badly that we aren't giving Lolita more mental stimulation. Spider monkeys are believed to be second only to orangutans on the intelligence hierarchy of non-human primates. The problem is that we don't want Lolita to become habituated to human culture, or to at least keep her exposure to a minimum, so that she can be successfully rehabilitated back into the wild.
Melissa was wearing the scarf on her hair, so Lolita attempted to put it on her own head. Haley was looking through the camera, so Lolita peered into it also...albeit the wrong end.
Marisol climbs into my sports bra for a secure ride.
Baby monkeys cling to fur; it's a matter of life and death as their mother travels through the trees. But Paul and I are very slippery as surrogate parents go, so we have to improvise. (Marisol would be happy in our hair but she likes to chew on it, and there's the risk of us becoming poopheads.)
Mornings are hectic (feeding, cleaning cages, doing monkey laundry). And some things - pulling up your pants, putting toothpaste on your brush, hanging towels on the line - are particularly difficult one-handed.
Hopefully Marisol will be ready to venture off us soon and spend time playing with Venecia.
Paul showers with Marisol.
Paul shaves with Marisol.
I do my hair with Marisol.
Katira drinks from a syringe with a small rubber tip, one drop at a time.
Katira slept through the night beside Marisol, cuddled against my stomach (I sleep on my side). Except for her first night, Marisol goes to bed when I do, gets up when it gets light - which is when I throw back the covers - and never pees or poos in bed. Katira followed suit!
At 6:00 a.m. Marisol drank 10 cc of milk in a few minutes. Katira took 45 minutes to finish 1 cc of Pedialyte and 8 cc of soy formula from a syringe with a special tip. Unable to open her mouth, she'd purse her lower lip, I'd put a drop or two in it, she'd swallow, and we'd do it again. She was hungry and I knew she was happy...she could drink and purr simultaneously!
I put salve on Katira's tight, dry burns after breakfast and noticed the scab on her nose was barely attached. She reached up, rubbed it, and it fell off - revealing a soft (albeit gray) nose with no disfiguration. I was thrilled.
When I fed Katira again at noon the left side of her mouth started to open, almost imperceptably, and within an hour or two should she could open both sides normally. Her tongue was intact, but the front edge of it was gray with square ridges...she had either clenched it against her teeth or bitten it when the electricity shot through her.
Katira wasn't well when she woke from her nap around 4:00 in the afternoon. I dribbled 1 cc of pedialyte into her mouth and watched as she appeared to "freeze" and stop breathing. Thinking she had choked, I called Mark (an ER veterinarian from Wisconsin who lives minutes away) and gave her mouth-to-mouth...alternately sucking in case there were fluids, then blowing gently into her nose and lungs. Mark wasn't convinced she had choked, and when he listened with a stethescope there was no congestion. Still, she could barely catch her breath. We tried what we had at our disposal; a shot of atropine, sugar water for energy, breast milk from a Tica neighbor, subcutaneous fluids, and Colicort drops for colic since she was crying like she had spasms. It wasn't until later that I realized she hadn't eliminated - pee or poo - since breakfast. Although her superficial wounds were healing, her body was shutting down. [Note: In hindsight I believe Katira had tetanus; lockjaw, and body rigidity and muscle spasms, with a typical onset 10 to 14 days after receiving second and third degree burns.]
Paul and I took turns holding Katira throughout the remainder of the evening - she received continuous body contact from the moment I adopted her - and when I climbed into bed with Marisol and Katira I was hopeful that somehow everything would be better in the morning.
No treatment possibility available was ignored...
Paul holding Katira when there was nothing left to do.
At 12:28 a.m. Marisol woke me up, gently touching my face and purring, and I knew instinctively what she was telling me. I reached under the covers to feel Katira's body, still warm against my stomach...but she had slipped away.
Paul buried Katira this morning under Lynn's memorial tree, beside Hershey, within the circle of large stones.
Mother Earth will swallow you,
Lay your body down. (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)
The family that rescued Katira, and cared for her for nine days.
On Friday afternoon I got a call about a howler monkey whose mother had been electrocuted on uninsulated power lines - something that happens all too frequently when they mistake the lines for vines. The campesino family that rescued her said she was drinking very little, and they were concerned that the inside of her mouth was burned. Road sign 3 miles outside of town by a one-lane bridge.
My initial reaction was that I couldn't help, because I have no experience with burns. And then, in a very "Celestine Prophecy" moment, I remembered that our future neighbor Mark, who is an ER veterinarian, had arrived the day before on a five week vacation...
Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. Mark, Alexa (my Tica neighbor), and I headed for Katira...a town so small it isn't in the GPS or on the folding paper road map of Costa Rica. The drive took almost four hours through beautiful countryside and past Arenal volcano, which I hadn't seen before.
Katira (named after the town) had burns on her face, scalp, tail, stomach, and one hand. The pain in her eyes and sad noises she made were heart-breaking, and she couldn't open her mouth wider than the tip of an eyedropper...Mark believed there were adhesions from the burns, and that she might even have lost her tongue.
The whole family bid Katira farewell at the door - except for the father, who wasn't present during our brief visit because he was afraid he would cry when she left. Hopeful that we could save this baby who had probably been nursing when her mother was electrocuted, and bravely lived for nine days with the wonderful family that rescued her, we drove the four hours home to San Ramon...after a stop for pain medication (Tramadol) in the first town with a pharmacy.
We know the odds are against us all...
The family says good-bye to Katira.
Katira's burns nine days after-the-fact.
With Mark, an ER vet from Wisconsin.
Is Venecia trying to text Home?
Venecia has gained weight steadily since she arrived a month ago, from 694 grams (24 ounces) to 872 grams (31 ounces). And although that's not quite half a pound, it's enough to snap the deck plants instead of bending them. The time has come to head into the jungle to play.
[Postscript from the next morning. FAIL. Venecia was convinced Paul was going to abandon her...with no trail of breadcrumbs to follow. However Chiquito, our spider monkey, had the same reaction initially. Soon Paul will be trying to spot Venecia among the leaves.]
Our hope is that wild howlers will eventually join the babies in the trees on our daily outings, like they do at Jaguar Rescue on the Caribbean coast. And then, that wild males will patiently hang around the cages, waiting for the girls to be released, like they do at SIBU Sanctuary in Nosara on the Pacific coast. Time will tell.
Venecia has turned into a gymnast.
My "tiger paw" has turned into a stump.
And now for the lipstick palm... aaaggh!