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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Saturday, November 12, 2016

monkey business

...That's the name of a chapter in East of the Andes and West of Nowhere: A Naturalist's Wife in Colombia, by Nancy Bell Bates.  This memoir of years spent with her husband Marston Bates in Villavicencio, Colombia is warm, chatty, full of appreciation for the life they lived there and their work studying animals known and previously unknown.  An assemblage of unusual pets is a given in such a life; here's a few of her memories on the monkeys who came to stay.
The cebus, so common here, are known as "maizeros" or "corn stealers." Anyone who has followed a hurdy-gurdy a few blocks knows what they look like. One of them, Roberta, took an intense dislike to the rhesus monkeys, and when chained near their cage spent her whole time throwing stones, banana peels, and anything else she could lay hands on at them, along with her insults. She even tore some of the screening off the side of the animal house one day when her chain was too long. Of course there was heavy wire netting back of the screening, but the rhesus were very much upset about it. In her heyday, before she outreached herself, Roberta was allowed to run loose. I think what led to her being permanently chained was that she grabbed the glasses off a gentleman's nose one day, carried them up to the top of a bamboo, and then dropped them. Or perhaps it was because she took his boots up and left them there.We have had many saimiri because they have turned out to be such good experimental subjects*, and they make lovely pets. They are dainty little things, and the local name of "titi" just seems to suit them. They have bulbous heads, flaring ears, and tiny faces with muzzles that look as though they had been dipped in ink. The other end of them is black too—the long tail that hangs down as though weighted by the tuft of hair at the end. In between they are the color of pepper, salt, and mustard mixed together. I often watch them nimbly catching flies to eat, or scratching each other's backs.
The woolly monkey makes a nice pet too, although he is rather stupid. He makes me think of a clipped, round ball of black yam, lightly dusted with white sugar. Mournful eyes gaze out of a wrinkled black face so appealingly that I often pick him up and carry him about like a baby, his tail wrapped around my arm. It seems to be the one thing he really enjoys.
Then there are the douroucouli, nocturnal monkeys with big staring eyes, that have earned them the common name of owl monkeys. Like the saimiri they make good laboratory animals. They have very silky soft fur, tails that are not prehensile, and almost no voice at all. At first glance you would not take them for monkeys. Their faces are almost completely furred, therefore rather expressionless, and their hands are like paws. But they are monkeys, all the scientists say so. They make gentle, even affectionate pets.

*Behavioral studies, not invasive medical experiments. - curator
-- Bates, N. Bell Fairchild. (1947). East of the Andes and west of nowhere: a naturalist's wife in Colombia. New York: Scribner. 114-5

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