Spider monkeys mate promiscuously, but Lolita is at least four years away from sexual maturity. Nevertheless, she has displayed a strong preference for "mature" men with facial hair. The young Ticos that speak to her and offer their hats are rebuffed. But the silver-haired Gringos with moustaches and beards? Her attraction and trust is almost instantaneous. (Their wives? Usually relegated to taking the photographs...)
Two empty bottles and half-eaten banana...
Chiquito is on the mend! He was thrilled to be offered a baby bottle last night after several months of being deemed too grown up for one, and drank 4 ounces of strawberry Pedialyte. Ditto the second bottle about thirty minutes later. He finished the half-eaten banana shortly after I took this picture.
Like most guys, when food and sex are his main priorities you know he's healthy. And he was visibly aroused when I approached the cage this morning...
Lying on the floor wrapped in his blanket.
Yesterday afternoon I noticed foul diarrhea in the cage Chiquito was in. I immediately brought Lolita inside, and Paul washed out the cage. Chiquito ate a banana-and-a-half before dark, and I thought all would be well.
This morning Chiquito wouldn't eat. Even worse, he wrapped himself in his blanket and laid on the floor.
I worry about the monkeys getting sick - especially contacting human respiratory diseases. (Explorers from Europe unintentionally wiped out populations of indigenous people on two continents.) So when a photographer who had driven for several hours to photograph the monkeys arrived with a head cold, she didn't make it past the front door. And even though education is a huge component of what we're doing, children under the age of ten aren't allowed to visit...they're just too virulent when they get sick. But with all of the bananas (which are binding) the monkeys eat, I've never worried about diarrhea.
The main ingredient in Pepto Bismol is bismuth subsalicylate. Nobody knows exactly why it works for stomach upsets, but it does. I even had a vet recommend it for puppies with diarrhea, and used it succesfully on multiple litters. (Pepto Bismol is NOT safe for cats, since salicylate is aspirin, which is toxic to cats.) And theoretically, the monkeys should be able to take anything that's safe for humans. Chiquito also willingly licked Bene-Bac Plus, a probiotic, from my finger. And Nutri-Stat, a high quality food supplement with omega fatty acids.
I'm going on the presumption that Chiquito ate something he shouldn't have on yesterday's outing, since he got sick within an hour of returning. Paul retraced their steps today and brought home both things he saw Chiquito eat. One is Guyaba and is fine. The other - small yellow "berries" that Paul thought were immature Nance (a fruit that is not currently in season that I buy for the monkeys at the farmer's market ) - may not be. And if Chiquito gets worse, or isn't himself in the morning, we'll head to a vet in San Jose who is a primate specialist...with the yellow berries.
In the meantime, Lolita seems empathetic and concerned. I don't know if she really gave Chiquito a kiss, was trying to taste the Pepto Bismol, or smelled something else unusual on his breath. But it makes for sweet photos.
Some men have hunting trophies...and some men release animals that other men have captured.
Here Paul and Chiquito head for their favorite jungle hangout (pun intended). Paul keeps Chiquito on a leash until they're off the county road - where they rarely see a vehicle - and snaps it back on him before they head home. Chiquito spends an hour or more in the trees, but I suspect he's disappointed that Paul can't join him and I'm hopeful that Lolita will be confident enough to venture off me soon when we're in an unfamiliar place. In the meantime Chiquito and Lolita spend their days in adjoining cages with a great deal of contact through the chain link, and I haven't had to worry that "somebody is going to ended up crying" (as my mother used to admonish us when things got too rough).
I read a sad article yesterday about a baby howler monkey that had to be euthanized at the National Zoo. She had metabolic bone disease (MBD) caused by an inadequate diet after being weaned to real food, and also perhaps receiving insufficient sunshine.
The Vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus balance is critical for developing bones, and MBD is common in birds that are being rehabilitated. (A young owl we received for rehabilitation had MBD and could neither stand nor perch, even though she was fully feathered, because of the improper diet she had received before we got her.)
Howler monkeys are hindgut fermenters, digesting the leaves they eat very slowly after they pass through their regular stomach into the hindgut, and lying on a tree branch in the sunshine aids with their digestion. Since our biologist suggested that we add a skylight to the cage during construction, Chiquito has gotten adequate sunshine. Lolita, however, has been in the house until this past week. Fortunately, spider monkeys are frugivores (fruit eaters) rather than foliovores (leaf eaters) like howler monkeys, and their digestion is very rapid so it hasn't been an issue. Lolita is also still nursing and her primary diet is Isomil, which is at least balanced for human infants.
Nevertheless, sunshine is vital for health, and Paul hustled out this morning to wash the skylight. I'm just worried that after seeing his limitations without a step ladder and extension ladder, Lolita might suspect she's adopted...
Napping on the porch while it rains.
Chiquito and Lolita have spent four to six hours a day "together" for the past week. They have a chain link barrier between them (Chiquito can get very rambunctious), but they tickle, giggle, and even hug.
Luring Chiquito into the small cage in the morning? No longer a problem. He goes willingly, knowing it means Lolita will be joining him. And it's not until she's removed from the large cage in the afternoon that he squeaks indignantly, demanding to be let out.
Peeling Lolita off Paul to leave her in the large cage? No longer necessary. She hops onto the ledge and runs around the perimeter to join Chiquito. If he gets too rough she just pulls away and waits for him to settle down.
Chiquito snatched a mamoncino fruit out of Lolita's hand the other day when I took them a mid-morning treat (her one apparently being more desirable than his two), but he also shares. Lolita doesn't get the full range of fruit he does because some of it gives her loose stools, but I've seen her happily munching on a piece of papaya that came from his breakfast bowl.
Nevertheless, there's no place like mom during an afternoon storm.
We lured Chiquito into the small cage two days ago with his breakfast bowl. We lured him into the small cage yesterday with a mere raisin (granted, one of his favorite treats). But there was no fooling him a third time today.
His breakfast sat untouched in the bowl on the floor, as did the bread, peanuts and raisins (barely visible in the photos) on the ledge. And the brand new enrichment ball that's supposed to entertain intelligent primates hanging in their cage with treats inside? Chiquito established a new level of enrichment when he stretched his arm through the chain link to hook a hole with one finger, pulled the ball within reach of both hands, shook the shelled peanuts out, and then climbed down and retrieved them from the floor. Okay fine.
Plan B was human interaction. Chiquito loves Oscar and Eladio, who have been building a carport within view of Chiquito's cage for several weeks...and providing hours of entertainment. But no amount of coaxing by Oscar or Eladio (Chiquito spent his first two years in a Spanish-speaking home so English is his second language) would entice Chiquito into the small cage. In fact, he retired to the top of his crate and reclined in a comfy position to watch their antics. Nevermind then.
"The Thinker." With a tail assist.
Plan C was to wait Chiquito out. We locked the small cage, left him in the big cage, and went about our business for an hour. Then we opened the door to the small cage again, hoping he was hungry enough. We did this twice. And conceded victory.
Tomorrow I'll try to figure out another way to safely put Lolita outside to play with Chiquito.
Who knows, some cage time might be good for me...
Jane Goodall has always been my hero, and working with primates an aspiration. Africa wasn't in the cards the summer I turned 16, when my parents offered to send me to volunteer, and there was only one class (in physical anthro-pology) when I wanted to study primatology in college.