Sunday, April 06, 2008


I was sitting on the deck having my morning coffee, frowning at the pumpkin patch and wondering why I haven’t seen any white faced capuchins for two weeks, when I heard a commotion in the bamboo. There they were, the same old troupe, my good friends the banana rustlers. And who should be grimacing at me from the mango tree but Scarface himself. Of course I crossed the deck to say hello and was greeted with such a wonderful display of threatening behavior from these tiny gargoyles it made me laugh. Bouncing up and down, baring their teeth and widening their eyes, banging thin branches against the trunk. Oh how I’ve missed these mini rebels. I wonder if they miss this sort of thing in the forest, they do seem to enjoy it. There’s really no need to taunt the dogs or myself, but they come so close deliberately just to send a shower of leaves at us and hurl facial insults. They are so beautiful in their way, such perfectly rounded tails, such glossy black fur – not straggly or uneven in colour like the howlers or spiders. These monkeys are perfect in their black coats and white cowls. Their naked faces look skeletal and oddly human. They have certain expressions which remind me of my grandfather. But with their pointed canines and maori-like poses they look quite scary too (which of course is their point), like a Japanese No mask. They are foresters too, purposefully breaking dead and weak branches as they go. Sometimes I think they are looking for insects, other times I think they must be taking care of their pathways through the trees – who knows when they’ll come through in a hurry and won’t have time to check the strength of a limb. The capuchins are noisy in the trees, not like the others here, they crash through like noisy teenagers, making faces and posing when they see more threatening creatures.
Scarface came closest as usual. It’s not so much a scar he has as a disfigurement, there’s something misshapen to the area between his nose and upper lip. I’ve been told that some previous occupants rescued a young white face and cared for him until old enough to cope for himself, I can’t help but think Scarface is the same monkey.