Sunday, 22 April 2007

Monkeys are part of a grander design

A small piece of red fur is offered for sale at the roadside. Where does he come from and where is he going?
Our photograph shows the tools of the pirate’s trade, shotguns and catapults. They scavenge the forest for young monkeys here in Venezuela. The mother carrying child is shot and the baby falls to the ground. Frequently the child is also killed but there is always another in the next tree. We have found baby monkeys that were barely alive and with horrible wounds on the forest floor. This note was inspired by a surfing session about Howler Monkeys. I came across a letter by a woman who had obtained a howler monkey. The substance of her complaint was that the monkey cried continuously. This lady has tried to put all kinds of interpretation on the loud crying and asks her readers if they have any suggestions on how to quieten it. He/she is not crying because he is hungry and probably at this stage he/she will not eat. He is not crying because of the new surroundings although because of our great relative size, he finds us quite threatening. Young howlers challenge their fears and hardly know cowardice. He is crying because he wants his mother. There is no going back. He cannot be returned to the wild because his mother is dead. He may cry almost continuously for two weeks. This can be more or less. With patience he will accept you and even bond to you. The crying will ultimately stop. The question remains, what reason did the woman have for selecting a howler monkey in the first place?
Even when very young the howler’s teeth are very sharp. He will bite first and ask questions later. He will always be a threat to women and young children. All monkeys bite and even when their teeth have been removed they can still inflict serious wounds. The older they become the more aggressive they are. They are just following the forest law which determines their survival in the wild.
We have a monkey here in our shelter whose canine teeth were removed as well as his testicles, by the loving owner. He is rejected by the females in the group and we have to give him extra care and support.
Purchasing an infant primate is always consumerism supporting an unscrupulous illegal trade.
Raised by humans, the baby monkeys never have the chance to develop as they should, so often they become psychologically maladjusted. They have little or no chance of leading life in accordance with their instincts as nature intended. The logic is flawed; they never become a safe companion. Howler monkeys are a poor choice of pet. They are part of a much grander design that includes humans but only as a element of their evolution. I wonder how many people realize that when they ‘adopt’ a howler that they are taking on a responsibility for at least twenty years.
Leave them where they belong and do not disturb them or their habitat.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Don't panic

I am working on something special for you. Publish tomorrow or Sunday


Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Alouatta seniculus

Alouatta seniculus
(red howler monkey)
Alouatta seniculus have the widest geographical distribution of all the New World primates. Red howler monkeys range throughout the northern half of South America, from Colombia to Bolivia.
Physical Description
Alouatta seniculus are slightly sexually dimorphic. Females have a body length of 46-57 centimeters; males, which are larger, have a body length of 49-72 cm. Both sexes have a long, prehensile tail of approximately 49-75 cm. The coat color of males and females is a deep reddish-brown, although the shade varies slightly with age. Red howlers have a large neck with tremendous lower jaw and hyroid bones, giving them a forbidding expression.

Due to such an unbalanced sex ratio, fierce sexual competition exists between and within red howler troops. Red howler males, which are expelled from their natal troop upon reaching sexual maturity, are forced to invade an outside group and gain admittance. Once they have accomplished this, they violently kill any infants present in the group. By killing infants in a newly invaded troop, a male can mate quickly and ensure that the new offspring of the group are his own. Mothers do try to protect their offspring against assaulting males. Unfortunately for the female, this is not particularly successful; less than 25% of offspring survive a male howler invasion.
The mating behavior of red howlers is another interesting aspect of their social interactions. Males and females often form consortships, an unusually close spatial relationship, before any sexual exchange has begun. Once these associations are established, sexual solicitations begin. Although seductive behaviors can be performed by both sexes, the female most often takes on the aggressive role. When attempting to attract a male, the female approaches him and moves her torque rhythmically. The male may respond the same way, but if he does not, the female may simply try to entice another male.
Alouatta seniculus appears to breed throughout the year. However, in two habitats in Venezuela, the birth frequency is reduced during the early wet season, May through July. The estrous cycle ranges from 16-20 days, with the female being receptive for 2-4 days. Red howler females give birth for the first time around 5 years of age, while males usually do not father an offspring until approximately 7 years. Therefore, a female reaches sexual maturity a couple of years before a male.

Newborn A. seniculus are at first quite helpless and are carried around at the mother's belly. Young red howlers begin using their prehensile tails before they are one month old. An infant uses its tail to secure itself to its mother, for in this stage of its life the mother pays little or no attention to her offspring, and fails to give the baby any assistance!
Parental investment:
pre-fertilization (provisioning, protecting: female); pre-hatching/birth (provisioning: female, protecting: female); pre-weaning/fledging (provisioning: female); extended period of juvenile learning.
Red howler monkeys live in relatively large social groups, consisting of approximately 10 individuals, with only one or perhaps two of the individuals being males. Alouatta seniculus exhibit many interesting behaviors. They are most famous for their "dawn chorus", a deafening roar that can be heard up to 5 kilometers away! These resonating howls, performed primarily by the males of a group, are answered by all other howler troops within ear shot. This way, one troop can constantly inform another of its precise location, thus avoiding an energetically costly squabble over resources.
During parturition, a newborn usually becomes the focus of attention of several other females. Typically, it is females without infants of their own that are attracted to these infants. In these instances, the females are extremely gentle with the little ones, touching them with their muzzles and hands. They may even occasionally encourage the infant to crawl on them. Males also are known to tolerate the activities of infant howlers in their troop. Similar to the adult females, the male red howlers also allow the infants to climb all over them. This of course takes place long after the male has killed all offspring that are not his own.
Food Habits
Alouatta seniculus are primarily folivorous. Leaves are low in nutrients and sugars in comparison with other food choices, and red howler monkeys have two large sections in their hindgut which contain the bacteria needed to digest the cellulose in leaves. This change in anatomy results in a large gut that occupies one-third of their total body volume. In addition, their extremely deep lower jaw bones aid red howlers in chewing. Alouatta seniculus also improve their digestive efficiency by feeding primarily on tender young leaves and on some species of leaves that are unusually nutritious. In addition, they eat sugary fruits and flowers when these are available, but can sustain themselves for weeks at a time on only leaves, providing these are high in quality. Alouatta seniculus spend almost their entire lives near the top canopy of the forest, where such leaves are most abundant .
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Due to their relatively large size, A. seniculus, along with other howler species, are hunted for food and are subject to commercial export.
Conservation Status
Although several other Alouatta species are endangered, A. seniculus has no special conservation status. However, red howlers have become rarer in some areas, most likely due to the destruction of their habitat. Fortunately, they are still abundant in Brazil.
Other Comments
Red howlers have an amusing reaction to rainy days during the tropical wet season. In response to heavy rains, they howl, either at the onset, or often at the sound of approaching rain, and sit hunched over until the rain ends!
Red howler monkeys have overcome problems that are usually associated with having leaves as a principle food source, including their specialized jaw and stomach structures. Behaviorally, they (along with the other species in their genus) are unique in that they have developed the loudest vocalization of any animal in the New World. These adaptations have aided them in becoming an extremely successful primate--and yet they are still able to sleep for more than 15 hours a day!

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Blessing animals

If you scan the web, you will find that many churches now are holding blessing services for pets. The usual date for this is the Sunday nearest the fourth of October, which is St. Francis of Assisi’s day. Some sites on the web give a complete liturgy and order of service for the blessing. One site describes the progress to the altar, of horses and dogs, parrots, pigs, and well why not, monkeys. This is of course controversial. Are we just blessing as we would bless the corn, or the harvest? Or are we going much further than that and saying that we recognize that animals have an immortal soul and that one day we will be together again in another place? I have read the work of some very learned theologians that define what is meant by a soul. They argue that the bible makes it clear that God created man in his own image and therefore he has an immortal soul. I am of course making the point very briefly. They argue from this that animals cannot have a soul because they were not created in the likeness of God. I consider this to be a very spacious argument. Well of course a couple of points arise. One is that I don’t find anywhere in the scriptures where it tells us that you must be created in the likeness of God to have a soul. The argument becomes even more tenuous when you realize that we, the human race are descended from Monkeys. Now there is no doubt about that one. If we have an immortal soul we inherited from our beloved friend the Ape. I say go with confidence to a service of blessing for our pets, monkeys in particular, in the sure knowledge that we will meet again in the kingdom of the hereafter.
I love the reasoning in the Fitzgerald translation of the Omar Khayyam Paragraphs 61 and 62. Where it says and I quote:

There said another, surely not in vain
My substance from the common earth was ta’en
That he who subtly wrought me into shape
Should stamp me back to common earth again.

Another said, why ne’er a peevish boy
Would break the bowl from which he’d drank in joy
Shall he that made the vessel in pure love
And fansy, in an after rage destroy?

Wonderful and profound those lines. Try downloading the whole poem.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Howler Monkey receives cataract operation

I found the following story on

It left me with a couple of questions. Were the cataracts bilateral? Were interocular lenses applied during the surgery? If so how was the sight measured for the selection of the lenses? If interocular lenses were not used, it would be difficult to understand how there could be an improvement in sight. Extended wear contact leneses would be a possibility in the event that interoculars were not applied.I have asked them these questions. I will pass the answers to you if I receive them.

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007...10:07 pm
A new baby for Tolkein: Howler monkey with restored sight gives birth
Jump to Comments
We’ve heard of modern medicine helping zoo animals in many ways (including Salome, a western lowland gorilla at the Bristol Zoo reproducing with the help of fertility drugs) and the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park adds another success to the list: cataract surgery. A howler monkey named Tolkein relied on the help of her caregivers in daily activities since she developed cataracts as a juvenile.

The surgery restoring her eye sight was a success and after her recovery, Tolkein was introduced to a new arrival at the Wild Animal Park, Clyde. About a week ago, the two became parents of baby who is yet to be named…. a baby that Tolkein can care for with the help of all of her senses.

Simon Jeffery, a headkeeper at the Wild Animal Park reports that,

“At just a week old the baby seems strong and healthy and is very interested in its surroundings and so far Tolkein is being a perfect mum.”

Thursday, 5 April 2007

We are new tonight

We are new tonight. April 5 2007. We will make our first posting tomorrow. Thank you for your interest. Please come back. We usually post every day, often with Howler Monkey pictures.