If you enjoyed the Sky documentary series “Monkeys; An amazing animal family”, you should appreciate this photography essay about primates. Presented by biologist Patrick Aryee, it was a decent attempt by the broadcaster, a fascinating and entertaining wildlife series. Not quite ready to challenge the BBC, which still reigns supreme in wildlife documentaries.
Mr Aryee, is a likeable enough presenter, although he does appear in shot a little too often, he should take a few tips from national treasure Sir David Attenborough.
While looking through some images from Costa Rica, I realised that there were plenty of beguiling photographs of primates on my hard drives, so sharing a few seems a good idea. Even ‘borrowing’ their title, blatant cheek, but appropriate for a post about monkeys and if it got you reading, then job done!
I cannot claim to have travelled nearly as far as Sir David and probably not seen as many monkeys as Mr Aryee. However, between the cloud forests of Costa Rica, the rain forests of Borneo, baboons in the thick mangroves of the Gambia and the forested hills of Rwanda, I’ve seen a few.
Meeting a band of brothers: Hanging with Baboons; Gang Culture in The Gambia
The programme narrates the origins of primates to the great apes and eventually man. It follows the first twigs on the evolutionary tree, bush babies and tarsiers, to evolutionary off-shoots, the lemurs, through a mass of branches which makes up the monkeys, finally reaching the major branches which hold the great apes, chimpanzees, orang-utans, gorillas and yes, man.
I’m unable to speak for tarsiers and lemurs, but monkeys are the adorable clowns of the animal kingdom. They entertain us with their cheeky antics, full of mischief, kleptomaniacs, stealing anything which isn’t literally nailed down.
Monkeys; Masters of Mayhem
Macaques in our cities or Capuchins raiding the garbage bins of residences close to the forests, they have the power to make us laugh.
They can also be aggressive, so keeping valuables safe is preferable to attempting to appeal to their good side. A friend had her mobile phone liberated in Uluwatu, Indonesia by a macaque, it refused to release it until a ranger distracted it with some food.
Sacred monkeys in Bali: Monkey Business at Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Macaques band together in troops, raiding parties, which torment any visitors carrying food and descend on street markets like a plague in the cities of Asia. Store holders and merchants fight a constant, losing battle as the clever marauders work together to distract, ambush and plunder, working from one stall to the next with almost military precision.
Possibly my favourite encounter with monkeys, was in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, while enjoying a trek along the skywalks, which allow visitors to get into the canopy of the forest with relative ease. Our small group came across a whole troop of howler monkeys, relaxing, playing and even sleeping just a few feet from our position.
Howlers in the clouds: Monkey Business in Costa Rica
A fantastic few minutes were then spent in the company of these cheeky monkeys. The baby of the troop stealing the show, as is usually the case, an entertaining terror; I’m sure any mothers of teenagers seeing his antics would have sympathised with his mum.
Meeting the Kings of the Swingers
Encounters with the great apes are often described as once in a lifetime experiences, even life changing moments. The first glimpse of a troop of mountain gorillas or an orang-utan is special, the heart races and gasps are the usual response. I’m extremely grateful for my life changing moments, but hoping neither of my encounters will be my last.
Swinging with the kings: Planet of the Apes; Orangutans in Tanjung Puting
Watching them for just a few minutes, it is easy to understand they are some of our closest relatives, their mannerisms, care of their young and social interactions can be incredibly close to our own. I’ve met intelligent people that do not believe in the theory of evolution, and will not accept that we are related to these amazing creatures, but short time in their company and it’s obvious we just sit on another branch of this amazing family.
There are still plenty more ‘cousins’ I’ve yet to meet, Gelada baboons in Ethiopia would be special, Sifaka lemurs in Madagascar and masses of monkeys in the rain forests of South and Central America.
Great times with great apes: Trekking for Gorillas in the Mist – Rwanda
In case you’re worried, Sky should be forgiving about me nicking their title, after all it’s allowed, trust me, it’s written in the small print on the television licence.