Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ware the Monkeys

One aspect of my trip to the beach which I did not mention yesterday was when a friend of mine was mugged by a monkey.

We were hiking through the small national park in Cahuita after we finished snorkeling. About 5 minutes into the walk we came upon about 10 capuchin monkeys swinging around and taking a look at us. They were really cool and we all took pictures with them.

After about 5 minutes of taking pictures one of the monkeys started to run on two legs after another woman not with our group. She managed to walk quickly away from the monkey and was fine.

The monkey then noticed my friend and started walking towards her. She was facing away from the monkey and did not notice the monkey until it was climbing up her leg. She stayed very calm even as the monkey hung onto her bag and she tried to shake it off.

After a minute or so she let the bag drop and the monkey rifled through her bag and found a half eaten candy bar and ran away eating the candy bar. My friend grabbed her bag and we walked quickly off before the monkeys realized who else had food.

The experience was unreal, that this small monkey would be so bold. Clearly they had figured out that a bag often meant food, or else the monkey smelled the food. My friend was fine and she was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, impressively.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Peter- I am glad your trip is going so well; It all sounds so beautiful and interesting. Your story about the monkey reminded me of the monkeys of Gibraltor. Below I have pasted an excerpt of a NY Times article about the wiley monkeys. Good luck with your teaching! Perry Flanagan

    ...There are now nearly 230 tailless Barbary monkeys on Gibraltar, and they do not merely live on the Rock so much as dominate it. As the last free-ranging monkeys left in Europe, the macaques happily milk that privilege, oblivious to the consternation they provoke among the Rock's other set of primates, their human neighbors.

    The monkeys do have a dedicated home, an ape den, at the reservoir up on the limestone rock that constitutes the bulk of tiny Gibraltar. But they are free to stray, and they do so, mostly in a quest for Kit-Kat bars, shady spaces, fruit trees, swimming pools and human toys. They have a special affinity for the purses, shiny cameras and plastic shopping bags that people tote around.

    And they have grown so used to the kindness of tourists and tour guides that little will frighten them away, not even the sharp flick of a broom or the shrill screams of children.

    It is not uncommon to stroll past the popular Caleta Hotel on Catalan Bay here and see a pack of large monkeys, with babies in tow, shinnying up drain pipes, sunning themselves on balconies, peering into open windows and waiting expectantly for a tourist to toss them a handful of potato chips, which the British call crisps.

    While tourists find the monkeys amusing (at least until a camera gets snatched), the hotel management most certainly does not. A sign posted at the entrance warns visitors to close their windows when they leave their rooms and resist the urge to feed the monkeys.

    The monkeys - despite being called apes, they are really monkeys - have grown so adept at the game that they can easily tell the difference between a maid and a tourist (the maid wears a uniform and cleans the windows).

    "People think they are cute, and they hand them crisps and biscuits, so the monkeys climb up and take the food," said Eric Shaw, who works for the nonprofit Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society and is in charge of the monkeys. "I mean, if you want to buy me a free drink, I'll take it. It's not that they are so clever. It's that we are thick."

    Like the adorable pint-sized pickpockets that abound in some European cities, often with the blessing of their parents, the monkeys do their utmost to charm and distract before making off with the loot. They have learned to preen in front of cameras and mimic snapping a picture; they jump on the heads of tourists for a laugh; they perch on the side mirrors of touring taxis and wait for their treats; they have even figured out how to unwrap candy bars.

    One of their favorite tricks is swiping ice cream cones from children, leaving behind a trail of crumbs and tears. (Not surprisingly, the monkeys now suffer from tooth decay.)....