Wednesday, March 19, 2008

monkey to monkey

I’ve been truly blessed in my life with some wonderful wildlife experiences, this morning I had a good one. There’s a troupe of white faced capuchins come through the garden, howler and spider monkeys too. In the treehouse I was neighbours with the howlers who slept in the tree a couple of times a week. But until now I haven’t had any real experience with white faced, the spider I’ve only seen a couple of times. This morning, just after 7, the white faced were in the bamboo that bends over my roof. They are beautiful, furry dark and strong the males about 2 foot high at tops, and they all have a lovely creamy white mantle that begins over the shoulders and chest and thins out around their faces. They don’t have naked faces really, but the hair is short and they look quite pink. They look like us, short quick gnomish us. Big round brown eyes, 4 fingers and a thumb, watching, thinking, nervous but driven by curiosity and interest. Thick tails which are prehensile and work as well as any limb, curling long and gracefully around branches. There were 9 in the troupe, only two young ones, no babies and I’m not sure how many males there were. Every face was different, of course, different expressions. They were quite noisy, barking, cooing, almost hissing and chattering as the dogs sat and watched them from the ground. The one which I think was the oldest and male, at least he looked the oldest came close. He grimaced a lot and they have fairly big fangs – the white faced are omnivorous like us and eat lizards, birds, squirrels – the teeth were quite menacing. They open their mouths as if to bite and curl back their lips and open their eyes wide – how I imagine the Maoris did, except no tongues. And they bounce and shriek. And they throw branches. It’s true, it was fun to watch them throw sticks at the dogs, and at me – a pretty big stick too. They hold a branch with their tail, pushing against it with their feet and use the momentum of their bodies bouncing to break off large termite munched branches and then they eat the insects. I thought they were like arboreal gardeners – even more gnomish. I had 2 ripe bananas so I stood on a stool with my arms up holding the banana. He wanted it very badly. And he came close – within 6 feet, but nope, not yet, though we danced like this for 20 minutes. He lay on a branch and watched me, arms folded beneath his head, feet dangling and we hung out. I peeled the banana, broke it in half and left it on the water tank, climbing down to sit on the stool to watch him. almost as soon as I sat down he came down and got a half in each hand, went to the next branch and slowly ate both pieces. He chewed with his mouth open and slurped. I was surprised no one came to see what he had. When he finished he stayed put. I put the other banana on the house roof and waited. This was trickier – it meant he had to momentarily leave the tree. It took longer, but he did it. In our time together I touched my face 3 times and he copied me. He absolutely copied me. Same hand, same spot. This was amazing for me, it felt like we had communicated somehow, shared something. Earth monkey to white faced capuchin monkey. Beautiful.