Day One | Monday, 29 October 2001
6 pm Arrive Philly airport
7:30 pm Leave Philly -> Miami
10 pm Arrive Miami
11:30 pm Leave Miami -> Rio
11 am (local) Arrive Rio
The first thing that hits you is the smell. Rio is a funky, funky town. And I’m not talkin’ about the Rock In Rio Festival. The second thing I notice is the smog. Lots of it. Once you see past the smog, you realize how majestic this area is. Rio is much more mountainous than I expected and realized. And they’re not wimpy little hills, either. It reminds me in a way, of Central PA. Only bigger. And greener. Oh, the green. Once we finally leave the airport, it’s evident we’re out of Pennsylvania. The roadways are lined with exotic tropical palms and various trees. We eventually went past the “downtown” area of Rio – similar to any big city, with a series of large buildings in a massive urban area. What surrounds the city is what makes this South America. There are thousands upon thousands of shanty/shack villages amassed in the hills, pockets and valleys around Rio. Red brick (clay) with slat aluminum roofing. Very typical of this continent. It’s another good couple of hours to the reserve from here (NE of Rio). You’d think this was a German colony with all the Volkswagons! The police drive VW bugs! We see the Jesus statue on the mountaintop on the way out of town. Along the roads, there are horses and cattle. I see very little wildlife, save for some waterfowl. There is also a lot of trash. A lot of trash. Any small hill or ditch near the road that is near a housing section has been dumped on. It’s hot, but not too hot. It still stinks.
We arrive at the reserve – first we stop at the education center at the northern periphery of the boundary. There are quite a few (mostly young) people around, who all know Andy and are apparently happy to see him. A quick tour and some vehicle negotiation, plus some supplies – and we’re off. We are to stay in the “field house” in the middle of the reserve. There are tamarin groups to see and trap nearby and all around. We drop off our stuff and check out the lab and basically get ready to go out right away. I’m very drained from the travel, but I’m not exhausted yet. I haven’t had a meal in over 6 hours, though. Thank god for yogurt covered raisins. I could really use a nap, however!
We set out initially to catch up with a couple field guys (local trackers who keep tabs on tamarin groups) and see if we might be able to find some groups to trap. Good thing I brought my pack! We found a couple trap sites and baited one of them. Currently, I’m sitting against a tree to guard the traps – from capuchins! Apparently, the capuchins can be a bit of a nuisance. Frankly, I hope they show up! I’m very close to one tamarin group’s favored sleeping tree. Hence the trap site. The forest is eerily quiet. Not that I expected it to be teeming with life – but if the wind isn’t blowing through the canopy, all I hear is my own breathing and a few dropping leaves. There are some noisy insects around, and a rare bird will make an appearance. But I’m told it’s one of the driest seasons in the park’s existence. It’s not muddy at all, some trees hardly have any leaves and everything is very crackly. Some “rain” forest! Actually, I’m told this is mostly secondary forest, not primary – and that a bunch of the reserve is old farmland. Some of these trees really speak when they creak! So far, no sign of monkeys!
And they never showed. Andy came back and we left the bait, but closed the traps. We head back out tomorrow about 5:45 am. We finally ate another meal today, about 9 pm! The food wasn’t too bad, actually. The shower was cold, but it felt good.
Day Two | Tuesday, 30 October 2001
The plan was to get up around 5 and go out at 5:45. Andy woke me up and my watch said 5:49. Either the beeper didn’t beep or I’m more sound a sleeper than I thought. We get going soon, though. It’s surprisingly cool in early morning. Too bad the sun’s coming up.
We de-baited the traps from yesterday and set them in another group’s traps nearby. Andy heard an agouti chirping on the way. The forest is definitely more lively, as you might expect so early. I’m sitting here and I hear the tamarins calling. The mosquitoes still aren’t too bad, but there’s some really big flies buzzing me. Time for breakfast.
7:35 am – success! Out of nowhere, four tamarins bound down to the trap site – 2 of them trap before they notice I’m around. A third does shortly after. The fourth, however, does not. It hangs around nearby for a little while, but then I lost it in the trees. I hear it calling, but it seems to be going further away. It better come back!
9:00 - Andy came back, but the fourth tamarin is still MIA. We gave the three some extra banana and tried to give them a little shade. Andy returns at noon.
11:00 am – Andy’s early, and still only ¾ tamarins. We need to do shifts, so I leave to head back for lunch. I return at 2. On the road on the way back, I see my first lizard! It’s a big boy, but it ran into the bush before I got close enough for a picture. It was 2-3 feet long and very dark green. Sweet!
Sitting on the porch, I saw another (different kind of) lizard – smaller, lighter color and with stripes on the back. Went to get a camera and it was gone. Doh! Back to the traps.
I hope it doesn’t continue to go like this. It’s quarter after 3 pm and I’ll be here till 6. I’ve already finished 2 of the 4 books I brought. It’s hard to listen to CD’s out here because you need to listen. The bugs are a lot worse today – and still not horrible – but you’re a sitting duck on the ground, and the flies bite! Trees make bad back rests!
Andy heard capuchin calls a little while before he left, but still it’s just the three tamarins. The fourth has either moved farther away or stopped calling. So much for family! Once in awhile I go make sure the trapped animals aren’t directly in the sun, but mostly I sit on the ground.
Throughout the reserve there are sections where huge bamboo grows in dense shoots. It’s big and thick and probably a couple hundred feet tall. It’s massive. It grows almost in a line in one area – Andy thinks it may have been a property line. It’s also very windy around here – and when the wind blows through the tops of these bamboo stands, they really make some noise. They clang and pop and crack and just be loud. So loud, and so thunderous that you can hear the wind coming before it hits you, because the speed of sound is faster than the speed of the wind. Freaky. Also distracting when you’re listening for monkeys. 4:45, still no 4th tamarin.
6 pm – Andy returns. They caught 6 other tamarins in 2 other spots. One group of 3 and another 3 out of 4 in the other. Since it’s about the time they go to sleep, we take all the traps and leave the 4th behind. The plan is to process them and bring them back tomorrow morning early enough so they can hopefully reunite with other group members when they wake up. 9 monkeys on the first full day – more than he got in 2 weeks when JoAnne came last year. I also have about 11 bite-fly marks. Tonight, we start “processing” monkeys @ 7 pm, to aim to finish by 10.
Haha! It’s 11:45 and we just finished. My ass is killing me from sitting on stools made of petrified wood. I have to get up at 5 am again, too. Crap.
Day Three | Wednesday, 31 October 2001
I woke up to the sounds of fruit bats chirping – I think. I actually got up on my own, around 5:15. Didn’t hear the alarm again. So I got about 5 hours of sleep and I can feel it. I fell asleep as my feet were still burning and numb and my eyelids were very heavy.
Last night we processed nine animals. One by one, they are brought out of the holding room, into the lab. We put them in this cool mock-manual squeeze cage and Andy gives them a shot of ketamine. Once asleep, they get all kinds of body measurements – length, weight, teeth, hair color; hair and blood samples. A tattoo and dye mark if not already. Some get radio-collared. Some groups only really need one functioning transmitter per group. Of the 9 monkeys last night, 2 were girls and both were pregnant. One was very close. Andy hoped she wouldn’t deliver overnight! Cristiane helped us process and took some funny blood samples in various tubes and things. I’m not sure, but I don’t think she’ll be around every time. So the tamarins spend the night, and first thing this morning we let them go.
I went with the bamboo group (the one I watched yesterday) and we waited to hear or see the 4th group member. He called from nearby, so we let them out after a banana breakfast. They all went in the direction he was calling so I think they’re ok. Then, immediately we go set another trap site. This time it’s a three member group. This section of the forest is more dense, and it’s on much more of a slope. We heard tamarins calling on one side when we arrived, so I’m hanging out on the other. I heard them once or twice after Andy left, but haven’t since. He wondered if they had already passed by and were headed the other direction. I would guess yes. It’s almost 7:30.
I forgot to mention, last night there was the coolest bug in the lab. A firefly/lightning bug flew in. But this wasn’t your average glowing insect, a la Pennsylvania or Indiana. This thing was 2-3 times larger than ours and it had 2 glow spots on its head (like pulsating eyes!) in addition to the illuminated abdomen. It was wicked!
10 am – no signs of any monkeys. Although, a phat hummingbird has buzzed me three times. The first two times I thought it was a huge bug coming to kill me. Luckily, with no monkeys to see or hear, I’ve been able to nap a little. Andy relieves me and I head back for lunch around noon. I see four more lizards on the way back, including one in the backyard of the house. That doubles my lizard total from yesterday! I had lunch and a siesta in the hammock on the back porch. So far, apparently no monkeys have trapped at any of the sites. Andy returns and says we’re not going back out until 3 pm. Another hour and a half! Sweet. He also says Rafael, an associate of Cristiane’s who’s helping trap, saw some capuchins at his site. Doh!
So, the other guys brought in a group of 3 tamarins (+ 2 infants) while I was sleeping. Andy and I went back out a little after 3. (Saw another lizard; total=7). We went to the site I was at in the morning. Four trapped tamarins were waiting for us! That was easy. So we grabbed them and took them back to the lab and went back out, this time to the first trap site I watched on Monday afternoon. As we were walking the trail, we came upon the group, traveling up the hill. Four adults and at least one small infant. Two crossed over us and then we moved on a little ways to let the others pass. Andy went ahead to check the traps, then came back to wait with me and let the monkeys go to the site (hopefully that is where they’re headed). We waited quite awhile and headed to it. No monkeys. We waited some more, but either they weren’t going there or they were already there and asleep or they weren’t hungry and passed it by. However, while we were waiting we heard Howlers across the valley calling. Sweet! I went back to the car to get a better listen and Andy waited a few more minutes. He says they’re only about a half-mile away. I say we hike it over there! Probably not gonna happen.
So, had a quick dinner of combos and snickers and kool-aid and went to process monkeys. We got 9 total today but only processed 6 (minus a female and 2 recent twins). Grand total so far – 18 caught / 15 processed. And it only took 3 hours tonight. It’s now 10:02.
Forgot to mention it was overcast most of the afternoon and not as hot. It began to rain around 3 pm but only sprinkled for about 2 minutes. How disappointing! Come on, rain forest – show me what ya got! Another freezing shower and it’s dreamland for me.
Day Four | Thursday, 01 November 2001
Miraculously I awoke to my alarm this morning. To maximize our time, Andy left ahead to release the 1st group near the gate and meet the other guys to get going on other traps. Rafael and I left a little later to release the second group, at 6 am. He drives like a freakin’ maniac – it’s kinda fun. He said something like “driving is for lazy people – if you stop, you crash.” OK! So we released the group after a banana each and headed back to the house. Andy was supposed to return relatively soon, but didn’t until 9. I had a nice nap! I guess he had problems with not enough traps and had to go to two other sites to get some. Andy waited at the house for the other guys to possibly bring in a group with some young juveniles and he wanted Rafael to take me to another site to bait, but not set, traps there. I was told to remember the way, as I may be going back by myself later. I didn’t bring my pack since we were just going and coming back. I needed my water though, ouch! This was the hilliest, slipperiest, longest, densest trail yet. It started sloping upward (we passed the spot where Andy and I were guarding yesterday) and there were places where if you take a bad step or fall too hard to the left, you were rolling down a pretty steep 150 ft drop. Damn. This is actually more like what I thought the hiking would be like. I’m thinking Andy was setting me up! The first three days were cake! It took us 90 minutes to go out and back. My legs are burning. Coming back down was almost harder, you really can get some speed coming down the slopes. And it’s not even hot today! It’s been cloudy all day, the sun hasn’t really come out yet. Can’t wait to make that climb in midday full on sun heat. We go back out to check traps at 11:30. The group with juveniles didn’t trap.
It’s just after 1 pm now. We went out to the place where Andy was this morning. A good 15 minutes drive and another brisk 25 minute hike deep into the forest – probably the longest hike yet. It wasn’t as harsh as the last, but probably denser. It’s what I imagined the forest should look like, also moreso than the last trail. Lots of palms everywhere, very little light getting to the ground, fallen logs and vines covering the trail often. More birds around, too – we even saw a couple small hawk-like birds of prey (near the road). We rolled by 3 trap sites, 2 baited but not set and 1 set but no monkeys. These trap sites I couldn’t even see until we were practically on top of them, much unlike previous sites. I didn’t have to stay and guard (no rest!) but at least we kept moving (less bugs!) We saw some killer, huge basketball shaped termite mounds on the way. So we don’t have any monkeys yet today. We go back to the same spot around 5 or so. Nice afternoon break. Watch out for spiny palms!
Did I mention – there’s papaya trees in the front yard, avocado growing on the side, and pineapple growing out back?
So about 1:30, the group with the juveniles came in. We did a quick processing of the 4 (out of 6) that trapped – blood, hair, weight and dye. They’ll go back out tonight to reunite right away. Andy’s pretty psyched about it – he’d be “really happy with how things are going” if the other group traps tonight. We’ll find out in a couple hours! It’s now 3 pm.
Another nice little nap and we head back out at 5. Unfortunately another 30 minute hike with no monkeys on the other end. Not that I won’t mind getting some actual sleep tonight. Apparently it’s a Brazilian holiday tomorrow – something about a “day of the dead”. Basically we have no help until Monday; nobody to help track or process and no cook! Gonna be rough.
Earlier today, Andy noted two low-ground areas – one that is “usually a stream” and one that is “usually filled with water”. They just looked like ditches. Two more evident examples of the drought. We also ran right through a stream of Army Ants. Andy noticed them and I stopped – didn’t see them until Andy said “oh! You’re standing right in them, keep moving.” Ok! I also never wore my sunglasses today – the sun didn’t break free of the clouds until right around 5 and by then it made little difference. So we have an off night – maybe I can get a good look at the bats leaving their roost!
And I did! I caught probably 10-12 of them taking off. Sweet. They really swoop low to the ground when they come out. I also found out I can sleep in tomorrow! Andy is taking Rafael back to the education center and not until 7:30. I don’t need to even be conscious until 8!
Day Five | Friday, 02 November 2001
It started out as a great day of days. Andy didn’t even get back from town until almost 10. I woke a few various times in the morning but didn’t actually get out of bed until 8:45. We started out into the reserve at 10:30. Andy went one way to check one set of traps, while I was to go bait the set that Rafael had taken me to. We were to meet back at the house. It was going to be a long hike for me, but probably end up only about an hour long, total. I got up there, no problem. I even almost ran into an enormous spider web on the way – the owner was smack dead in the middle, and almost as big as my palm. Got a sweet picture and walked – around – it. I re-baited the traps (all the old bananas had been eaten). Then I headed back down into what was actually my descent into near-hell.
It started out quite simply. The route back down this hill was not a well-worn, easily seen trail. In fact, it was too worn. The ground around the trap area was quite open, only several spiny-palms and a few large skinny trees around. Very little brush or bush. I evidently cut the angle too much as I headed down. I figured as long as I went down, I’d have to hit the trail eventually. It was a very well-used trail and it was directly down the hill.
I found a trail, but it wasn’t one I recognized. I surmised it was an extension of the one I was on. My sense of direction, however, was severely distorted. I was unsure which direction to go. I thought the best solution was to go back up the hill a little ways and reconnect with the original trail I should have been on. I did that, but became disoriented again, and eventually went back down the slope to find the trail. The problem was, I couldn’t find it. I had somehow zigzagged myself right off of any path known to man. I swore that if I headed down the slope that I came up in the first place (I was probably about halfway up) that I would hit the ground-level trail that I took to get up there in the very first place. So I headed that direction. Unfortunately, I never hit it. And as I went farther, it became impossible to back track to anywhere that looked familiar. What I eventually hit at the bottom of that hill was a dried-up stream and another hill. I picked the direction that I thought I should go and kept going. I was going deeper and deeper into the forest and had no idea where that was.
Any sight of sun ahead in the trees looked like it might be the road. I think I changed directions 3 or 4 times heading for those. But it always ended up being just a clearing in the forest where the sun could penetrate.
I was getting desperately frustrated, and exhausted. Off-the-trail in the forest is in-the-dense. Occasionally I would be able to walk upright with a normal gait. 80% of the time I had my legs or upper body caught in 2 or 3 vines, or both. I was constantly ducking and climbing and repelling and falling on my ass (I lost count after 7 or 8 times). My shirt and jeans were racked with sweat and blackened from dirt. I ran out of water about 1 o’clock. I was getting worried that Andy would be sufficiently worried and take the time and hassle to get help to look for me. Since it’s a holiday, we’re the only ones doing any trapping or tracking today. I was supposed to be back at the house before noon.
I was still determined to head in a southerly direction. I was pretty sure the house was sort of in the southwest section. I came upon a large clearing, which I really thought was a road. It turned out to be a swamp. It was probably the only place in the reserve to still have water. It also was quite long and wide and had green, leafy plants that covered it – and they were about 5 feet high. I started to try and cross it, but it got really spongy and there was no telling what lived in it. There was no way I could get through it. So I tried to go around it. The only problem was the humongous hill that surrounded it. I had sort of come down it on the less steep side when I hit the marsh. I tried to go around but found it steeper and the vegetation more dense. I was literally engulfed in plants a couple times. So I eventually doubled back; there was no way I could physically climb that ridge. I was really dragging my numbed and bruised shins and feet by now. Luckily, I came across a rogue wild orange tree. I scarfed down one just for the juice. It was very tart, but not bad. I saved 2 for later, not knowing how much later would last.
Every so often in my adventure, I would stop and listen for cars or sounds, like the train or something. Once I thought I heard a car, and began heading that way. It was a plane. With the amount of time I had been walking, I had no idea if I may have been near the main road, or the periphery of the reserve. I figured if I could go in one direction I would eventually hit a fence or a road. My mind was playing tricks on me – I wasn’t even close!
I also saw about 10 more of those huge-ass spiders around. Luckily I never ran into a web. I even saw my first snake, a small and slender green vine-snake-like one, on the ground. I was determined to not stop moving. I was really tired, but the mosquitoes would nail me if I stopped, and if I did it would be that much harder to get going again.
As I was going around to double back by this big marsh, it eventually was getting easier to walk. I kept going away from the edge of the marsh, against my directional instincts, because I would find little areas and pockets of ground where I could walk erect and not constantly trip over everything. This would end up being a very lucky coincidence.
I kept hoping a rogue lone capuchin monkey would happen upon me and lead me to the house. That didn’t happen. Fortunately, as I kept going and following the pockets of open ground – it appeared to convene into a trail. I kept going. The trail was becoming more obvious. The only problem was – which trail? Where the hell was this going to lead me? Then, strangely, the trail got wider and turned into two trails, with a median in the middle. This was a road!
So, the road ended up to be an extension of the very road I walked initially, to get to the trail entrance. I walked right past it on the way back. Apparently I did some kind of booming loop around the area where I had been, and simply went beyond the reach of the established trails. I ate a second orange in celebration. It was horrible.
So I ended up hiking for 3 and one half hours in fairly dense forest. To my surprise, Andy was gone and hadn’t left a note. I hoped he wasn’t out rounding up a swat team. He wasn’t – he returned about 10 minutes after I did, to the house. He went to where I was originally (the trap site) and yelled for me (but on the other side of the ridge). I also blew my “signal whistle” a few times while I was lost, to no avail. He heard the plane, too. He then went on to another trap site in another location – different, completely – thinking I may have misunderstood and went to meet him there. He said if I hadn’t been back his next step was to go get the park guards or the field guys!
My god, my shins are a mess. Covered in blood-red bruises, marks, scratches. I’m lucky as hell I didn’t catch any palm spines in the face with as many as I passed. My left contact lens did pop out once, when a small limb poked me – thankfully it was clinging to my eyelid and I caught it and was able to get it back in. In the middle of the jungle, with dirty-ass hands.
Andy is out near the gate checking traps. He let me stay behind and chill. Just before dark, we’re both going back out again. We have no monkeys so far today, so this may be our first big bust. Or we may have two groups – who knows? It’s actually raining currently, softly but consistently. The first real rain since we arrived. Bout time! It’s about 5:15. I think we’ll be heading out around 6. Andy should be back soon.
Andy got really lucky. Apparently, as he was heading to the site for that group, they were literally steps away from their sleeping site. They were just coming to a bamboo “bridge” that connected the forest edge to a large bamboo clump where they liked to sleep. He immediately showed them bananas and they said “hey… bedtime snack!” They couldn’t resist. So they came back to the trap platform, where 3 of them trapped – unfortunately no adults, but the sub-adult he caught was big enough to be fitted for a radio collar. So today wasn’t a bust!
Speaking of trap platforms, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned those! They’re actually quite cool. And straight out of Gilligan’s Island. They take bamboo poles, cut them to length and then half them. They line them up between 2 or 3 tree trunks and then fasten them together – with vines! About 5 feet off the ground.
Andy got back, dropped off the 3 tamarins, and we went out to check 2 more traps. Along the way, we saw an armadillo shell (well, remnants of one). It still had 2 or 3 bands connected to the main plate. I’m not sure how it got there – it’s right in the middle of a tire rut, but there’s no animal remains. Must have been a molt? Do they shed? Nah… anyway… both trap sites were empty (for the same single group). Andy suspects capuchins were at one of them. Four of the five traps were either robbed or set off. Missed them again!
It’s been lightly raining, still, most of the afternoon and continued into monkey processing time. We did it with just the 2 of us, and I got to collect the feces! Woo! It went fine. So, after 5 days, our monkey total is 25 trapped, 22 processed.
By the way, I finished my 3rd book tonight.
And I think the forest made me get lost, for revenge due to the disparaging remarks I made on Day 3. The “show me what you got” thing. It showed me. What I got was lost.
Day Six | Saturday, 03 November 2001
It’s still raining, but it’s so light you can hear it more than you can feel it. Andy went out early to release the 3 from yesterday. About 5:15. It got up shortly after that to set one set that we checked yesterday.
Andy got back around 8, and by that time it was actually raining pretty hard – not quite a downpour, but it was significant. When he got back we immediately went out to see if there were any monkeys in the traps I had set. Most likely just to make sure they didn’t suffer in the rain too long if they did trap. We found nothing. He mentioned he saw a prehensile-tailed porcupine on the road when he set out in the morning. We came back and chilled for a bit, then went back out to check traps he had set earlier. Five monkeys, there were. Oddly, it was not the group he was expecting, but roll with it! We came back to drop them off, then went back to check my traps again. By this time the rain has stopped, but all the trees are all still very wet and the puddles can be large. Still no monkeys, though.
I noticed a fruit hanging by the lab building (in a tree). I didn’t recognize the tree or the fruit, and it was sufficiently high so as not to allow closer inspection. It was pear-like in color, but not shape. Andy didn’t remember ever seeing that tree bear fruit. Turned out to be a mango tree! I found a couple very small fruits dropped on the ground and cut them open – characteristically yellow fleshy fruit with a big white nut. Andy even tasted it. Pineapple, mango, avacado, and papaya all growing within a few yards!
We went out to both sets of set traps, but both were empty again. We came back and began processing the group of 5 around 2:30. That took a good while. We immediately went back to the set traps to check again – he to the gate and me to my set. Both empty. So was my head, because I didn’t think to close the traps. Andy said “well, that shouldn’t be a problem… unless they go in at night.” At this time, almost all tamarins are probably asleep. I hope so! I don’t want to go back out, and Andy is going to the wedding of the sister of one of the field guys. I’ll go back out if I need to. I’d hate to go there in the morning and find terrified, soaked and shivering monkeys.
The rain has actually gotten stronger again. Combined with the fact it’s been going for almost 24 hours now, the puddles in the road have connected in each tire rut, making a double-stream divided highway. Great, sloppy fun.
Andy took off, so the house is mine until whenever. It’s quarter to 7. I have to figure out what the hell to eat or cook in this Flintstone kitchen. I think I might try to mash some potatoes.
30 monkeys trapped.
Oh! Andy wasn’t too concerned about the traps I left open, after all. He thinks it might even be good, as we won’t need to check them / set them first thing in the morning. Sweet!
The mashed potatoes were tolerable. I did manage to find Seinfeld on the TV! In English!!
Day Seven | Sunday, 04 November 2001
Apparently Andy got back from the wedding a little after 1 a.m.! He’s a bit tired. After we get up around 5:15, go out to release the group from yesterday, set 2 sites and check mine from last night – he says “I’m going back to bed” – works for me! He saw an armadillo, another porcupine (maybe the same) and a cow (yes, a cow – the land surrounding the reserve is farms, and most likely the fence has holes) on the drive out last night.
As we walk up to check the traps I left open overnight, they’re all robbed and not one is set off. Andy looks perplexed. Then he looks off down the trail a bit. Capuchins! He points – I strain to see… I see a body or two, dark shadows of figures, branches crashing. No faces and no detail. He says “that trail goes on, go ahead and see if you can catch up if you want a closer look”. So I bolted. Ran right into a huge spider web about 15 seconds later and never saw any monkeys. And I lost the trail. For a few frantic seconds, it was Day 5 all over again. But I hadn’t gone far – I found Andy in a minute or so. The funniest thing was when Andy saw the capuchins taking off. He said “they must have just been here… suckers.” Aww, shucks!
After a couple-hour nap (for each of us) we went out to get gas and check traps by the gate. We saw the cow, lounging by the road. It left a couple piles of evidence of its existence along the way. We saw lots of birds, some egret, a couple hawks, and some sweet-looking black vultures – probably 7 or 8 of them. I saw a couple in the swamp when I was lost, but wasn’t certain they were actually vultures. I told Andy they were jet-black, hunched over and looked like mini-vultures, but he thought it was probably something else. Nope – that’s what they were. I think when I saw them in the swamp, they were just waiting on me to collapse.
It’s still raining. This morning it looked like it was clearing up and drying out. Very few drops. The clouds are back, though and it’s coming down pretty good. We go back out at 3 p.m. Andy wants to roam around the area where we saw the capuchins and look for tamarins. I am to go set the traps I have baited twice before. The ones on top of the hill. The spot where I got lost.
But I’m going to need to stick around for a couple hours and see if they come back to sleep there – they might trap. It’s weird how the first few days, I spent 9-10 hours guarding traps, it was sunny and hot, and there were a lot of people around. The last few days have been the opposite – I haven’t guarded any one site for more than 10 minutes, and it’s been rainy and cold, and Andy and I are the only people around. But now I have to go back out and hang there, in the rain. Yay. If Andy and I both come up empty-handed, it will be our first no-monkey day.
My headphones don’t work, and all my books are finished. Gonna be a long and boring and wet wait. Singin’ in the rain, perhaps?
Oh yeah – did a lot of singing – and pacing. I wore my rain pants in case I wanted to sit down, but I couldn’t. Just too rainy and buggy. I made it up to the top of the hill ok, but the same thing happened as last time. Coming back down, I took a wrong fork. Took me a few (ok, several) minutes to get back up, but I did. I made a few of my own landmarks. Put down some logs in shapes that pointed in one direction and hung some plastic grocery bags on strategic trees. Damn.
I was there a little over 2 hours. That trail – wow, it’s killer when it’s dry, but hellacious when wet. I grabbed one tree trunk to balance and it was dead and gave way. My weight went right. On the right was a drop, practically straight down, about 100 feet. Woulda been a nice roll. Wish I had a tail! But I didn’t need it. Luckily, not all my weight went right.
Then, the bestest thing ever happened on the walk back to the house. I was on the road and I heard some branches crashing. Then I heard chucking – it was capuchins! I couldn’t make them out, but they were close. They kept on chucking at me but they didn’t want to be seen. After a few minutes, they seemed to fade away. However, because the road I was on shortly thereafter twisted right, I ended up cutting them off. I got a great look at them. Just 2 of ‘em (although that doesn’t mean there weren’t more deeper in). They were up high in one of those massive bamboo clumps. They were chucking like crazy. One was bigger than the other, and it’s just a guess but it was probably an adult and a subadult or juvenile. When I tried to move to get a better look, they would go the other direction. So then I would go back around the bamboo. I was playing hide and seek with wild monkeys! They seemed to want me to know they were watching me but I was not allowed to get a good look at them. They can really jump! They did some of those long leap-drops you see on Nature. They went up in a big palm tree, I would come around… they’d go back to the bamboo and vice versa. My binoculars were wet and foggy and so was my camera. I got a couple pictures – we’ll see how it goes.
I heard Andy coming up the road from the house. Then the capuchins got real quiet. And they disappeared. Ah… highlight of the trip so far!!
I don’t think I’ve ever been this soggy – at least not since I last wore diapers. I ripped a humongous hole in my rain pants, climbing up that damn hill. First time I ever wore ‘em, too!
So, I didn’t catch any monkeys. Neither did Andy. It’s a no-monkey Sunday. Our first. Getting plenty of sleep tonight! Maybe we can find Seinfeld again.
No Seinfeld – Clark Gable, though.
Day Eight | Monday, 05 November 2001
Well, it’s not raining anymore, but everything is still wet – trees, trails, roads, my shoes. Got up at 5:15, went out about 10 ‘til 6, waited at a trap site, no monkeys showed, hiked and drove back and got here at noon. Nice little 6-hour soggy and boring trip. I passed some of the time watching a rather small spider build a web practically from scratch. It ended up being about as wide as the span between my thumb and pinky. I even smacked a mosquito without squishing it and threw it on the web. He didn’t go get it right away, but a few minutes later, the mosquito became un-stunned and started squirming. Then Mr. Spider came and nailed him. Sweet. He waited a little while and then I saw him chow down. What a good deed I did. They did get some monkeys at another spot (the field guys are back) and we’re gonna eat some lunch and do some quick processing right after.
We quick-processed 3 out of 6 monkeys in one group (minus a mom and 2 week-olds) and then did 2 normal processings of ½ of another group. By the time we were done with that, it had started raining again. Pretty hard. We went out shortly thereafter to release the group of 6, pick up the other half of the one group, and check on another trap site (it was empty). We brought the two back to the house, to process after dinner. We’re going out! Andy likes to take the guys out to eat whenever he comes down and we’re going to some kind of all-you-can-eat BBQ type place. Should be interesting. It’s currently 5:30 and the rain has died off again.
Last night, I awoke around midnight with an urge to use the bathroom. It’s literally about 4 feet from my room, but it was pitch black. I thought for sure I could make it. I got about halfway there and realized I did need my flashlight. Went back to get it, go in the bathroom and shine my light on a 3-inch long enormous cockroach, sitting on the toilet seat lid. If I had gone in there without a light, and hit that thing while putting the lid up? Shudder to think!
The food at the BBQ was pretty good. All kinds of different meats and flavors. They bring it out a big shiskabob kinda thing and if you want a chunk, they chop it right down to your plate. And they keep bringin’ it and bringin’ it until you say stop. And that’s the first time I’ve worn deodorant in 8 days!
The field guys are a good bunch. They all seem to like one another, they’re all fun and joke with everyone. Ademilson has been there about 4 years, and Otavio, Sylvan, Jadir and Ely are all 12-14 year veterans. They seem very loyal and dedicated. All were very nice to me.
Andy and I ran into a bat and some “goatsucker” birds on the road on the way back. Not literally. Oh, and a frog! We got back around 9:30 and processed the other half of that group. They both needed tattoos. We finally finished up around 11:30. One more day!
Oh yeah – earlier today, a monkey we were processing had an eye boogie. I got it for him.
Day Nine | Tuesday, 06 November 2001
The final countdown… we got up at the usual time and went out to release the full group from last night. Andy has set more traps as well as both Otavio and Synval. It’s conceivable we may have 3 groups to process later before we leave. Oy! And apparently only 2 more radio collars left.
It was very foggy this morning. By 7:30 the clouds had dissipated and the sun broke out – copious amounts of blue sky and bright light!
I guess Andy prefers to let his “assistants” (keepers) hang out and just watch monkeys (to get in some good behavioral observations) for at least one day out of the trip. Today is my day. So, around 8:30 I’m going down to the reintroduction site (another section of forest, down the road) to hang out with them for a few hours. There are common marmosets there, similar to Geoffrey’s.
I return, we eat, process monkeys if we have any, then leave! At least that’s the plan. Our flight doesn’t leave until 11:20. But it’s a couple hours to get there, we need to arrive a few hours before and I believe we’ll be spending some time at the education center, too.
The reintroduction site was very interesting. It’s literally adjacent to and/or contained within a farm. You gotta walk through cow patties to get to monkeys. I went in with Andreia, and it wasn’t but 15 minutes into it, we find the group she was looking for. We turned a “corner” and 5 of them start screaming. My instinct told me “ok, we’re spotted – they’re gonna take off and we have to keep up”. Not even close. The minute they saw her, they couldn’t care if I had traps on every finger. They know she was going to give them bananas. They gravitated to us. A couple of them got to within a few feet! They’d sit there, make some noise (“where’s my banana?”) and just hang out. Very shortly after that, some common marmosets appeared. I saw 2, one of them had at least one infant. They were much more leery of me. Anyway, so the tamarins start moving… and we’d go cut around and meet them, or they were just going where they thought we would (I couldn’t tell who was leading whom) but we all ended up at a bamboo platform and that’s where they wanted to be the whole time. Andreia pulled out the treat, three bunches of bananas, about 10 each. Holy plantains, Batman! That’s a lot of fruit.
Then, whaddayaknow, more marmosets showed up, I think there were 5 total. They’re ugly. And rather annoying – they were still all pissy at me, even with 30 bananas as big as their heads. They wouldn’t come down to eat while I was there. Still, the five tamarins stuffed their faces, going through probably 12-13 of the bananas by themselves. Then we left. It was short, we were only in there for 30-40 min, but they were very close. Sweet.
I didn’t like Andreia much. She was a bit snobby, like there was some kind of attitude. She didn’t introduce me to the eight other research workers/students in the van with us. Ah well. She said have a safe trip, but it didn’t sound the slightest bit sincere.
So I got back around 2 pm, Andy and Otavio had gotten one more group of two animals (the ones up on the hill, where I got lost) – they processed one and gave it a collar. So that brings the grand total of monkeys trapped and processed to:
42 trapped (including 6 mother/twins)
15 radio collars put on (Andy brought 16)
Andy said it was one of his most efficient/productive trips, ever.
I ate lunch, cleaned up and packed. That’s pretty much it…
Oh wait! Oops.
On the way back into the reserve from my trip to the other site, Andy and I had gotten outta the car. He was looking for some animal tracks of “something unusual” he saw crossing the road earlier. He wasn’t paying much attention and caught it in the corner of his eye. He thought it was probably an agouti, but wanted to have a look.
Anyway, he was looking on the road and we ended up going a bit of a ways ahead of the car. Then, just ahead of us, a large capuchin group was crossing the road. (via the trees overhead, of course). It was way cool… we saw at least 10 or more. A couple of them were fairly small and young. I got a good look at a few of them, but I got too close and they stopped crossing. I back off a bit, but they actually just moved down the road a little ways and crossed at another spot. Neat-o!
Ok, now… in a few minutes we leave for the education center, and then back to Rio… and then Miami… and then PHILLY!
Hey, Natalie Imbruglia’s new CD came out today! (well, it did in Australia).
I suppose Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Rio was built on clay. The amount of beet-red dirt here is amazing.
Rio is breathtaking at night.