B r a z i l : PICTURES


I spent nine days near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - hanging out in the jungle and chilling with monkeys. I traveled with Dr. Andy Baker, animal curator of the Philadelphia Zoo and researcher of golden lion tamarins. I assisted in animal trapping and data collection. From October 29th to November 6th in the year 2001, this is what I saw...

[ One ]
Scenery, part one.

[ Two ]
Scenery, part two.

[ Three ]
Monkeys and other not-as-cool animals.

[ Four ]
Random randomness.

[ Journal ]
I kept a long-winded and sometimes painfully funny diary.


Andy started an ecology study on golden lion tamarins in the 80's while working on his doctorate and continues to return to Brazil twice a year to further his work in the field. There is a biological reserve near Casimiro de Abreu in the state of Rio de Janeiro, just a short drive northeast of the city itself. The park has a large assortment of animals, including a few species of primates (brown howler monkeys, tufted brown capuchins, and golden lion tamarins - and there are also common marmosets at another site nearby, as well as muriqui in the area). The tamarins are one of the most endangered primates in the world, and this park has the highest concentration of them anywhere in Brazil. A few years back, Andy began taking down a lucky primate keeper to help assist in his ecology study. Due to some strange circumstances, I actually got to jump ahead of my place in line and was asked to go this time. I said oh hell yeah.

So we flew down and got to work. It's a pretty simplistic idea... we set live traps for monkeys, lure them in with bananas, and catch them. Once we have them, they get a light dose of ketamine to chill them out for a little while. We take basic measurements - length, weight, blood & hair samples, feces if available, check teeth & limbs, give identifying tatoos and dye marks if needed, attach radio collars to track them and let them back into the forest ASAP. There is a team of 5 field guys who track and monitor several groups every week. They take copious amounts of behavioral data and Andy combines that with the animal-specific details, and in the end we get a much better idea of what these guys do and what they need to do what they do. Simultaneously, as we learn more about them, various plans are in place to help ensure their best chances for long-term viability. There are two other small parks nearby that have large tamarin populations and public campaigns are hoping to build corridors of forest to connect all three together. Most of that land is privately owned farms, and so far the response has been good. Time will tell.

I spent a lot of time hiking trails to bait traps, set traps, retreive traps, and release monkeys. I spent more time hanging out at trap sites to wait for monkeys to trap, or to guard against other monkeys from robbing the traps or harassing the monkeys that were in the traps at the time. I got up at around 5:15 every morning. I spent approximately 21 hours in airplanes. The first few days were very bright and sunny, and warm. The last few were very wet and relatively cold. We caught over 40 monkeys representing 11 family groups, one of Andy's most successful and efficient trips. I did lose a trail once, and spent about 3 hours lost in the middle of the forest. A very lucky coincidental finding of a road allowed me to live to tell about it. And I ate a lot of rice and beans.

Back to: