Monkey Tracking Adventures (part 7)

15 Jan 2009

There’s a group of howler monkeys voicing their opinions nearby as I type.  I can hear them through the window. It’s pretty quiet, so they’re probably several hundred meters away in the forest, I’m guessing.

Saw tamarind monkeys today on the way back from breakfast.  There’s a group that hangs out in the camp and I had never noticed them before, but Tony pointed them out.  It was a group of about 9.  They’re tiny, maybe the size of a large rodent.  They ran all through the trees from the stream by the dining hall to beyond the lab.

It’s a frustrating technology morning for Tony.  First, he downloaded nearly six days of data from his GPS only to find that the memory holds three days, and defaults to wrapping around. This means that the most recent three days overwrote the previous three days.  That sucked.  Then, we had planned to walk out to one of the camera traps by the river, about 2km, and replace the batteries and memory card on the camera.  We hiked out there, longer than we thought because one area was flooded out and we had to skirt around it, and when we got there, he realized the batteries were not in Tony’s pocket.  A wasted trip for him. But hey, I enjoyed the walk, and the spot is really beautiful, right by the river.  I didn’t get any shots though, too much foliage.

Update on José: we ran into him in the forest today, taking down his traps.  He told us it turns out there’s no room on the Friday plane from Coca (where the boat lands) to Quito is full, so he’ll have to stay a day in Coca before he gets to Quito.

Did another test with the GPS unit, this time on the dock of the river.  Results:  nothing.  Sigh. It was pleasant to sit out by the river while it collected data though.  Got through a couple more chapters of Moby Dick while butterflies landed on my legs.

The big generator went out this afternoon, so they’ve got the lab on a small generator.  Now we have the fragrance of gasoline exhaust wafting in the window.

The food here is pretty good. It’s simple, rice with most meals, and all the bread is the same sandwich buns (hamburger buns, basically). This morning we had French toast made with the buns, and tonight we had broccoli and cauliflower over noodles in a cheese sauce, with garlic bread from the same buns.  Lunch was a to-go pack for the forest, two ham and cheese sandwiches on, you guessed it, the same buns.  The folks cooking are pretty creative with a limited set of staples to work with.  We’ve also seen an amazing variety of uses of bananas.  Tonight they were poached in a sugar sauce, I think. Sometimes there are banana chips, or grilled bananas.  There are always mangoes and some other fresh fruits available, usually apples and passionfruit.

Tonight for fun, I explained how GPS works, and Tony played human evolution raps from his class. Now there’s a more serious conversation about how to identify individual monkeys from the coloration of their genitalia.

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