By Emily Jones (student intern)
The morning had started off ordinarily calm with foraging being the primary interest of the huapos (local name for saki monkeys) as the sun rose over the barranco. I, along with my fellow huaperitas (a title given to the other saki monkey assistant researchers and I), travel down the hillside and into the bajio flood plain, a common hang out locale for this group. The three members of this group are an adult female, adult male, and juvenile and they are munching away on palm fruit above me. A few pieces of slobbery, rejected fruit had just fallen down upon my head when I hear a deep, long growl coming from above me. This vocalization, in itself, is not overly alarming as saki monkeys will occasionally direct these growls toward researchers when they are not accustomed to being followed by bipedal, hairless creatures with clipboards. So, when I gaze upward and don’t see a bald-faced saki staring back at me as I usually do following a nearby growl, I am taken aback.
What I find instead is an individual looking outward, into the distance. Before I could follow this adult male’s line of vision, another call I had never heard up until this point was vocalized. It sounded like maniacal laughter from a horror film that sent shivers up my spine. I realized this was something unique and important. What could make a normally very quite, collected, and solitary monkey so loud and upset? Before I could come up with an explanation and within a blink of an eye the group congregated in one small tree and raced off, jumping from tree limb to tree limb emitting growl after maniacal laughter with the occasional trill thrown in. The other huaperitas and I start running after the group to find the answer to our mutual question.
Although physical contact between the two groups never occurred, the energy and menacing behavior displayed in that single hour truly opened my eyes. In stark contrast to the cryptic and mostly silent behavior I am accustomed to with this species of primate, I have become aware of how complex their behavior is. This final experience was a wake up call: even on my last day of research, there is always something new to learn about the behavior of primates.