Saturday, October 29, 2011

GN: The Prodigal Son

The day started off relatively normal.  GN’s male and female vocalized, as usual, towards GE, and then advanced across the fence of Yvaga Guazu.  This has become the typical morning routine.  Wake up…talk a little bit with the neighbors…maybe eat a Lauraceae fruit or two…then head off to where Leanna can’t follow.  So they lost me right around 7:30 AM.  Only 15 minutes later, my male, female, and juvenile all came back into Yvaga Guazu and moved towards one of their favorite resting trees (dubbed Lazy Tree #1).  Seemed a little soon to be back in the park, but these monkeys are always throwing me for a loop.  At 7:55, only ten minutes after arriving back within view, a strange monkey approached the group.  Now, we’ve encountered strange monkeys before, but we have NEVER encountered strange monkeys here.  All the other titis tend to stay towards the back of the park in the more forested area (minus GE), whereas this individual approached from the exact opposite direction.  At first, my female merely arched her back, but then she chased the strange monkey at full speed to a tree about 50 m away, with the male and juvenile following close behind.  By the time I got to this new tree, all four monkeys (male, female, juvenile, plus the stranger) were all sitting in close proximity and showing no aggressive behavior.  Weird.  Since just like ten seconds ago I was witnessing the titi equivalent to a high-speed chase.  I’ve honestly never seen my monkey family run so fast.  About a minute or so later, the group of four made their way back towards Lazy Tree #1 to rest.  At 8:10 AM, all four were tail twined.  It was at this point that I realized this strange monkey had to be one of GN’s subadults.  Why else would the group dynamic change so quickly?  There’s no way a total stranger would be accepted into a quadruple tail twine in such a short time period.  So if this is one of my GN subadults (most likely the younger of the two older offspring, 3 year old Jasy), which I really believe it is, how/why was he on the other side of the fence?  My normal family – male/female/juvenile – crosses that fence almost every day, and not once have I seen this other monkey nearby.  The only times I have seen the two older brothers, I was in the back of GN territory, which is the complete other extreme to Lazy Tree #1.  Also, why did the female react aggressively at first?  Was she just caught off guard by the unexpected approach or did she not even recognize him? 

Around 8:30 AM, all four were resting close, but nobody seemed very relaxed.  You could cut that monkey tension with a knife.  Occasionally the subadult would move away temporarily, and the juvenile would follow him.  The juvenile would then spend the next few minutes going back and forth between the subadult and the male, as if he was unsure whom he was supposed to sit by or where he was supposed to go.  It was during one of these momentary family separations that the juvenile, who was carrying the infant, moved towards the subadult and passed off GN’s newest addition to his older brother.  Even further confirmation that this was, indeed, a member of the GN family.  The subadult carried the infant for only a minute or so before bringing it back to the male.  The notes from my field book accurately describe the situation as an “awkward family reunion.”

At 9:00 AM, completely out of the blue, my male and subadult began to fight.  The male chased the subadult all throughout Lazy Tree #1 and then across the fence to a group of taller trees.  The female followed closely, arching her back as the male and subadult battled it out relatively high in the canopy.  The brawl was momentarily suspended when the subadult fell out of the tree FROM LIKE 15 METERS UP.  Needless to say I was sure I had a monkey carcass on my hands.  A brief, but triumphant Type 1 vocalization from the male and female, and then they made their way back to the lazy tree.  The subadult followed.  More fighting from the male and subadult – hitting, tail pulling, etc. – and a little more chasing, but each time the male tried to call it quits, the subadult would follow.  After about 10 minutes, the whole group was back to resting.  Just like that.  The male, female, and juvenile all tail twined, with the subadult only 5 m away.   An approach by the subadult, now touching the juvenile, but no aggression from either party.

9:20 AM.  Ten whole minutes of hostile-free behavior.  Subadult approached and initiated a quadruple tail twine.  No big deal right?  They totally did that earlier.  Well this time the male was not having it….at all.  Just seconds after the twine, the male once again chased the subadult across the road towards the taller trees, once again they fought, and once again the subadult followed the male back to Lazy Tree #1.  The subadult then tried to fight the female, but the male intervened.  Good for you!  Defending your lady’s honor.  Fighting, chasing, fighting, chasing, fighting, and then they were done.  At 9:25 AM, the subadult slowly moved near the male and female, to within about 1 m of the duo.  Then it got weird. 
            9:26 Subadult slowly laid down on the branch at the feet of the male/female
            9:27 Subadult arched his back and squeaked at the male/female
            9:28 Subadult slowly laid down, again right at the feet of the male/female
            9:29 Subadult arched back
            9:30 Subadult slowly laid down
9:31 Subadult arched back
            9:32 Subadult slowly laid down
What is this?  Is he showing aggression and then immediately performing submissive behavior?  Whatever it was, it was repeated multiple times.  The family then rested for another 20 minutes, with the subadult tail twined with the juvenile.  Speaking of the juvenile, during each of these “instances,” he hightailed it out of there.  Probably his best bet.  Definitely don’t want to get in the middle of that family drama.  It was also during this 9:20 encounter that my female injured one of her front feet.  She spent the next half hour limping through the branches, struggling to keep close to her man. 

As 10:13 AM rolled around, I witnessed a third chase scene from GN’s male and subadult, who again ran to the taller trees across the road.  The female did not follow this time, most likely due to her wounded foot.  The male returned, with the subadult behind at a reasonable distance.  This seems to be a trend. 

10:27 AM another male/subadult chase performance.  This time, however, they remained in the lazy tree.  Guess it’s not so lazy anymore.  The female also got in on the action, fighting with the subadult.  Hand-to-hand titi combat at its most intense.  The female and subadult then fell off of their branch, momentarily catching themselves on a large limb, before falling the rest of the way to the ground.  My male was freaking out.  He immediately descended the tree, calling to the female, and waiting for a response.  A few seconds later, the female and subadult came racing up a nearby tree, where the male took over chasing duty from the female.  The male held the subadult in a monkey headlock for about 30 seconds before releasing him and returning to, and then tail twining with, the female.  Another few repetitions of the subadult arched back/slow lay down routine, and then at 10:37 AM, the subadult approached the male and female and remained in close proximity. 

A few minutes later, the juvenile returned.  And all four rested, tail twined, and most likely napped for the rest of the morning.  I mean seriously…these monkeys had to be exhausted.  Their normal schedule calls for mid-morning naps even without multiple scuffles, so I imagine even after I left them around 12:30, they remained on that branch for a few more hours. 

Moral of the story: not every prodigal son is welcomed with a fatted calf. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Real Titiwives of G5

Cramped into the back corner of Yvaga Guazu is the atypical titi family, G5. My name is Shannon and I'd like to introduce you to Picaflor, Caysita, Veronica, Jack, and their two little bundles of joy, Kim and Chang. Yes, I did say TWO bundles, and no they aren't twins.

*dun dun dun. Insert dramatic organ music*

And who exactly is wearing the pants in this group? Let's take a look at the matriarch, Caysita.

Caysita is easily identified by her dark face and the very dark grey color and slicked-straight look of her tail.

She's a fairly independent woman that regularly initiates duets, often takes the lead on moving camp, and likes her space. Though preferring to leave the parental care to the male, like other Titi housewives, Caysita has been seen carrying the smaller infant, Chang, more and more. However she outright runs from her own baby, Kim, when she tries to hitch a ride.

Bueno, let's move onto dad, meet Picaflor.

Now, I'm not one to judge the promiscuous ways other primate societies, but you should at least be a member of one of them if you are going to engage in that kind of behavior. That said, you have to feel for the guy when you see him lugging his two tots around. And it is Picaflor who is carrying them most of the time. I've seen the others take turns carrying one or the other infant, but the majority of the time they're with daddy.

Onto Veronica, the other woman.
Veronica is a grey female with a rounded tail.

Despite the scandalous circumstances, Veronica is quite unobtrusive most of the time. She also helps carry the infants, though she is quick to complain (whining, squeaking, twisting, and pulling at the infant on her back). Veronica also seems to take her cues to nurse from Caysita, often nursing the smaller infant right after Caysita takes the larger infant. I have not yet seen Veronica duet alone with Picaflor, Caysita continues to fulfill this role. Veronica will vocalize with the group, and even duetted with the subadult, Jack. At one point during some long, confrontational vocalization bouts with G4, Veronica disappeared, heading off towards another pair of duetting monkeys. Perhaps looking for greener grasses already?

Next we have Jack, the subadult of Picaflor and Caysita.

Jack seems to be your typical titi son - helps with the duetting, sometimes takes on solos or continues vocalizations with one of the females if the male is not around or has stopped. He continues to stick close to the group, often trying to keep up with Caysita who moves further ahead to feed or find a shady place to rest. Jack is also one of the more vigilant individuals of the group, making it difficult for us monkey paparazzi!

Lastly, the cutie patooties!


Already climbing and playing in the lianas, Kim has earned a few bumps from falling out of a tree (4m up). Though this hasn't deterred her one iota and she continues to gallivant during resting and feeding times. Kim has been exhibiting much more feeding behavior recently - pulling at plants, biting stems and leaves.

And Chang

Still quite small, enough that I frequently need to use binoculars to see who is carrying him when the group is high up in the canopy. I'm already seeing some sibling rivalry with Kim- a couple of times Chang has climbed onto Kim while both are on Picaflor's back. Though Caysita or Veronica will carry Chang, and I'm seeing Kim get around on her own during resting and feeding times. Can't wait to see what happens when we have two juveniles terrorizing the family - " But dad, Chang alwaaaaaaays get the branches with the most fruit!!!"


Monday, October 3, 2011

And Then There Were Three...

Hi everyone, my name is Chantelle and for the past three weeks I have been following the smallest of the titi monkey families at Yvaga Guazu, G2. With the presumed departure of adopted sub-adult Sol, G2 now consists of Vanessito, my dark, handsome male, Isabel my feisty female and mother to Luna, my juvenille, who never fails to make me smile with a curious tilt of her head.

The G2 family: Isabel, Vanessito and Luna

Vanessito is the brave protector of the group, who boldly patrols the borders of his territory in a periodic fashion each day, often vocalising in all four corners of his territory with or without the input of his loving (if not a little bossy) female, Isabel. He pays particular attention to the safeguarding of his family's beloved mango patch. This prime monkey real-estate is where my family like to spend the majority of their time, relaxing on the shaded branches (often for more than three hours at a time!) in the knowledge that they are surrounded by more mangos than they could possibly know what to do with. Such a bounty undoubtedly attracts the attention of other titi monkey families, and I'm looking forward to the turf battles that will undoubtedly ensue once the mangos are ripe. For now the only family allowed entry to the mango patch while Vanessito is nearby is G4, who's male, Casanova, is Vanessito's brother. G4 is a family of 6, with the newest addition being just a few weeks old. Since my family hasn't had a baby this year, it's nice to occasionally get a chance to watch this family interact with their little one.

Vanessito enjoying his hard earned mangos

Isabel is my feisty young female who, more often than not, will get her own way, a prime example being the grooming hierachy within the family. Several times now I have watched at Vanessito lay down across her 'lap' angling for a little attention from his partner. Sometimes Isabel will oblige, half-heartedly pulling at his fur a minute or so before quickly tiring of such things and switching places to recieve a much more thorough grooming from Vanessito. More recently Isabel showed similar discourtesies to her daughter; just a few days ago I watched as Luna was enjoying being groomed by Vanessito (always the doting dad) while Isabel rested, seemingly content, nearby. When the situation came to Isabel's attention she was quick to swoop in and take up Luna's spot in front of Vanessito. Despite these tendencies, Isabel does have a softer side, often resting tail-twined (the titi monkey characteristic that I find most endearing) with both Luna and Vanessito.

Isabel resting in the groups favourite mango tree, if I can't find my group I can be sure that they'll turn up here sooner or later!

Luna, the youngest of the group, is thought to have been adopted by Vanessito (along with her departed sister Sol) when he paired up with Isabel, after presumably seeing off a rival male. With no other juvenilles or sub-adults in the group, Luna has grown into an independent and courageous little monkey, often staying behind to feed a little longer while Vanessito and Isabel continue on through their territory. I have even witnessed her solo vocalising to a neighbouring chicken patch group, such is her nerve. It is usually Luna that alerts me to the familiy's presence; several times I have not realised that they are feeding right above my head while I scan the trees up ahead. Unaware of my close proximity I hear small alarm calls just above me and look up into the curious little black eyes of Luna, who, despite alarm calling never makes to move away.

Little Luna

It is this courage that seems to be a recurring trait in the G2 family, who, unlike many of the other groups, have never retreated at my presence. In fact, they often creep closer, sometimes to within only a couple of metres, to stare at this strange person who insists of following them aroound while they continue on with their daily business.

What's GNew

Hello titi lovers!  My name is Leanna, and this season I have been/will continue to be following the GN family.  Up until recently, there was a little confusion regarding the names and territories of the titi groups at Yvaga Guazu...what we thought might be G4 was actually GN and G4 was actually what we had been calling GN...oy vey!  A few Skypes with Kim and a couple of photo comparisons later, we finally had it all figured out.  And I can now say with confidence that GN are my monkeys and my monkeys are GN.  For those of you unfamiliar with this particularly titi family, the GN clan consists of papa Daniel, mama Carmen, Kuara, Jasy, Esperanzo, plus a BRAND NEW BEAUTIFUL BOUNCING BABY TITI!

One big happy titi family!
Even though GN has five individuals (plus one infant), these past few weeks it has become a rare occurrence to see all five (plus infant) together in the same place at the same time.  It is, however, very common to see the male, female, and juvenile - Daniel, Carmen, Esperanzo - hanging out and resting and foraging together at most times of the day.  And I would say with confidence that the male carries our new infant about 85% of the time.  Other times, the infant is nursing with the female.  Plus there's also the few random times when the little baby climbs on to the juvenile's back.  But that never lasts long...that baby may be tiny, but the juvenile's not much bigger!  Little Esperanzo usually passes younger sibling back to dad after only a minute or so.

Baby on Daniel's back

The GN male, Daniel, is by far my favorite of the group.  During the whole G4/GN confusion, I started calling him Mufasa because of his red color and fluffy "mane."  Also I just really like "The Lion King."  At first, he didn't trust me.  At all.  He would do everything in his power to steer clear of me and my binoculars.  His favorite trick was to climb down to a lower level in the canopy and disappear into a viney thicket...clearly out of my visual reach.  Eventually, I gained his trust.  Or his apathy.  Not sure which exactly.  But either way, he doesn't seem to mind me or my binoculars or my camera now, even coming down to rest on a relatively low branch.  Perfect photo op - thanks Dan!

GN's handsome male, Daniel
Carmen is a different story.  She still doesn't seem to like me too much, despite the fact that we've been spending so much time together recently.  5-7 hours a day, 5 days a think she would've warmed up to me by now!  I'm sure I'll win her over eventually.  She spends the majority of her time with her male and juvenile, but it's not unusual to find her foraging solo in a Cecropia tree.  Hey girl, I totally get it - a woman needs her alone time, especially with a new baby in the house.  Do what ya gotta do, Carmen.  We'll be besties by December.

Carmen and Daniel vocalizing/tail twining

Our little titi juvenile, Esperanzo, has always been curious about me.  Coming down form the tree tops to look at me, jumping back and forth between branches right above my head, staring at me for extended periods of time.  Such a cutie.  Always wanting to play with mom and dad, never wanting to sit still and be groomed, this little monkey has a big personality.  Most times, he sticks pretty close to mom and dad, but there have been a few times of solo exploration by Esperanzo...never straying too far though.  There was one instance, when our male/female/juvenile trio was foraging on some Lauraceae fruits, and Daniel and Carmen continued down the trail without the little juvenile noticing.  They went all the way down past the soccer fields and across the fence before Esperanzo realized his parents were gone!  After a few desperate vocalizations on the part of the juvenile, mom and dad came back over the fence into Yvaga Guazu, and the reunited family happily rested in one of their favorite trees.

Crazy little Esperanzo...
The two GN subadults, Kuara and Jasy, are still a little bit of a mystery.  Okay, true confessions: I only know their names because I looked them up while typing this.  During the G4/GN mixup, when I first found out my monkeys were actually GN, I didn't know their names at all!  Even after I learned them, I couldn't ever actually remember their names.  So I started calling them Kahlua and Jazzy J.  Those nicknames have stuck least in my field notebook.  Anyway, these two are a mystery.  I barely ever see them!  I've probably seen them only 2-3 times with the rest of the family.  Most days they are off on their own doing their own thing.  I've seen them sneak off into G4 territory a few times, but I haven't followed them yet to see what they're doing over there.  During the morning vocalizations, I can often hear the subadults close by, calling with the male and female.  One time, I witnessed what I have now dubbed 'tri-vocalizing.'  So this 'tri-vocalizing' occurred during the peak of YG monkey chatter.  I could see all my monkeys - a rare occurrence in itself.  They were all relatively spaced out, my male and female about 20 m from my oldest subadult and about 20 m from the other subadult and juvenile.  A titi triangle, if you will. ALL the other groups were vocalizing - G4, GE, G1, G2, and all those other G's back there.  My oldest subadult, Kuara/Kahlua was the first to vocalize from GN, followed shortly thereafter by the male/female, and then by Jasy/Jazzy J (our little juvy Esperanzo stayed quiet).  One family vocalizing from three different locations -- tri-vocalizing.

It's only been two weeks of official data collection, but I'm already in love with GN.  Even though I don't get to see everyone all the time (Kahlua and Jazzy J - I'm talkin' to you), who and what I do get to see is both highly entertaining and educational.  I'm so excited to be here working with the Titi Monkey Project, and I can't wait to watch my new little titi baby grow up!  (PS tiny titi name TBD...)