Friday, January 28, 2011

Meet Our Monkeys: GN

Inhabiting the small, but prime real estate between the territories of GE and G4 (roughly bound in by Sendero A, Kapora Trail, SenC, and SenD), you’ll find Group N, the titi family I had the privilege of studying in the fall field season of 2009.  Though shy and less vocal than their neighbors, I found this family to be interesting in its own right. Since the project first began to track the group in 2008, we have recorded the dispersal of their eldest offspring and the brief stay of a stranger individual (more on that later), as well as three births. The family unit currently consists of the mated pair, Carmen and Daniel, and their offspring, Kuara, Jasy, and Esperanzo.
GN Female: Carmen
Not very fond of outside company
As the head female of the family, and one who prefers to leave the child-rearing responsibilities to her mate, Carmen is the most vigilant of the group, and the one I found most difficult to be habituated. Naturally, she is my favorite. With an impressive swagger, hairs standing on end as she alerts her family of danger, Carmen can be an intimidating sight for a monkey of mere 12-inch stature. Even assuming a calm posture, her body is stocky when compared with G4’s slender Yuvinka, making it easy to tell the two matriarchs apart. Other distinguishing characteristics include deep-set eyes, and a scar on her left brow that lends her a disgruntled appearance (Note: this may no longer be useful, as her fur has likely filled in by now).
Carmen is usually found some distance apart from the rest of the group, though she remains attentive to their activity and intervenes when necessary. Such was the case when Daniel one day grew frustrated over efforts to wean Jasy off his back. The heavy weanling refused to locomote on his own, and when a fight broke out between the two, Carmen stepped in to physically reprimand Daniel, thus ending the scuffle and allowing father and son to reconcile with a brief grooming session.
GN Male: Daniel
Hanging out with subadult Kuara
GN Male Daniel is quite the handsome fellow. He can be distinguished from G4’s Casanova by the light gray grizzle on his forehead and at the bottom edge of his mane, while his prominent red coloration distinguishes him from GE’s Vicente. He has a cautious but calm demeanor, and is almost always found with his offspring in tow.  
GN Offspring: Kuara, October 2009
Kuara, November 2010 (photo: Daniel Kruemberg)
Kuara is currently the oldest of the family’s three offspring. His appearance has changed dramatically since I first observed him back in 2009 as a scrawny subadult. I am told that Jasy, who was born in August of that same year, and who I watched mature from an infant to a weanling, is now almost a subadult himself! It is amazing to see how quickly these monkeys grow. The newest addition to the GN family is Esperanzo, who holds title to the first Yvaga Guazu titi baby to be born last autumn in 2010.
GN Offspring: Jasy, December 2009
Jasy, November 2010 (photo: Daniel Kruemberg)
GN Offspring: Esperanzo, January 2011 (photo: Daniel Kruemberg)
 And now for the mystery… E (simply short for “Extra individual”) joined the GN family for just over two weeks beginning in late October 2009. Tagging along with the group, occasionally participating in grooming, feeding, and resting sessions (though never tail twining-- a titi bonding behavior whose human equivalent is hand holding), E was ousted shortly after being lightly wounded during a battle in the high canopy over Kapora Trail, a fight initiated by GN’s Carmen. While this may be another case of a dispersing young adult attempting to integrate into a neighboring group (as it was with G3’s Casanova and G4), it is possible that E is GN’s eldest offspring who, unable to successfully disperse, had returned to its natal group. This is a problem that in later years may become more common at our Yvaga Guazu field site. Because the forest fragment is so small, and is surrounded on all sides by rangeland and city infrastructure, there is little territory left unclaimed by the various growing titi groups inside the park. Dispersing young adults will have to fight it out to gain acceptance into an existing group, or risk going at it alone. 
Mystery Member: E, October 2009
GN Family tail-twining in the rain
Clues that make me think E is a returning offspring: With a very similar likeness to Carmen, E is bulky and gray overall, with only a slightly more orange forehead than the female. I also found the individual well socialized, as if E had experienced habituation before. As no other YG study group was missing a member at that time, there is a strong possibility that E is the GN subadult a previous field assistant had first recorded of the group back in 2008. Fortunately we can test for DNA from fecal samples collected of E and of the elder GN offspring to see if it is indeed the same individual. As of now, we are still waiting to hear on the results.  

The Stories Behind the Names:
Our human friends, Daniel and Carmen
-Camen and Daniel are named after a pair of professional photographers who have made their home at La Quinta. Over the course of four years, they have taken beautiful wildlife photographs for Bolivia’s national parks, and have worked with local conservation organizations to showcase the country’s unique biodiversity. I was lucky enough to see a photo exhibition put on by FAN-Bolivia right in the downtown Santa Cruz plaza, of which both Carmen and Daniel (as well as a couple other of our talented house residents!) took part. See the online version here: Check out more of their work here:
2009 FAN-Bolivia photo exhibition in the plaza: Celebrating 20 years of conservation work
My favorite image from the exhibit, Daniel's birds in the Patanal
-Kuara and Jasy are named after a pair of mischievous siblings from an old Guarani legend. In one version, the brothers, having grown tired of their adventures on earth, one day sought to touch that expansive ceiling that hung so far above them— that is, the sky. At this early point in time, there was no difference between day and night. The sky was white, and everything was grey, and life was difficult for humans. Undaunted, the clever siblings shot a series of arrows upward, one by one, until it formed a long rope with which they could climb. Their father, who had created them and was watching them from above, was quite impressed with their antics. When little Jasy, who had climbed first, reached out to touch the sky, he was immediately transformed into the moon. In trying to rescue his brother, the elder Kuara reached out and in that moment was transformed into the sun. The brothers have chased each other across the sky ever since, though neither one will ever catch up to the other. It is thanks to this pair that humankind can now see the transformed sky and appreciate the colorful and complex world that surrounds us.
Our little moon and sun
-Esperanzo was named by Sharon, a field assistant on the current titi monkey field team. She was present during the births of the 2010 babies, and spent some time following GN. In Spanish, “Esperanzo” means, “I give hope”—a lovely and fitting name, don’t you think?

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