The trees were alive with black spider monkeys jumping, climbing, chasing each other and making all sorts of unusual sounds. The tall bushy tree limbs shook and swayed in all directions as the scores of monkeys spread like wildfire across the area. Some had flesh colored rings around their eyes and white chin whiskers. Their hair was coarse and stringy looking. Their bellies lacked under fur. There were suspended by their tails like giant spiders getting ready for a battle. Some were golden; some were red, brown and black. They had slender bodies, long legs and arms with very narrow hands. They were using their long tails as an extra hand. The underside and the tip of the tail are used for climbing and holding on to the limbs. Some were hanging by their tails and using both hands to eat or gather food. It was the spider monkeys holiday just like the 4th of July for children. It was a time for fun and games.
Spider monkeys live in the evergreen rainforest and live mostly in the tree tops preferring to be left alone. Many never come to the ground as they feel much safer jumping from tree top to tree top.
Spider monkeys prefer a diet of mostly fruit and seeds, feeding on the mature soft parts of a wide variety of fruits. They eat seeds along with the fruit and absolutely love honey when they can find a hive. They also eat young leaves, bark off trees and rotting wood. When they can’t find food readily they often choose insects or eggs from bird nest. They always eat where the food is and do not carry it back to where they would sleep.
Spider monkeys live in groups of about 30 individuals but today there are hundreds of monkeys covering the tree tops in celebration. The females are much more active than the males and cares for all the young ones. Males try to be dominant over the females but most of the time the females are the ones to make major decisions for the group. Males play very little parts in helping with the young. In these tree tops the females and the young monkeys are grouped together and move ahead of the males making their own little groups.
The spider monkey’s arms and legs are particularly long. They have hooked-shaped hands because their thumbs are either absent or reduced to a small stump. Their hands look like hooks with long, narrow palms, long curved fingers, and no thumb. The thumbs are only on the feet. Their small heads bob this way and that way exposing their prominent muzzles. They are mostly about two feet tall and weigh from ten to twenty pounds. So the limbs in the tree tops stay busy moving and bouncing with the weight of the monkeys. Those monkeys that arrive late must wait until those go arrived first leave the trees then they can follow along behind them.
Today they have found trees with fresh fruit and they are not allowing any new comers to butt in on their territory.
Spider monkeys are called the most acrobatic beings of the forest. They move swiftly through the tree tops using one are after the other sometimes covering up to forty feet in each stride.
Moranko and Puchio are the proud parents of a tiny black little boy monkey. They have named him Moosep and they are showing off the little one to all the scores around them. Puchio is very careful not to allow any males to get too close to Moosep and to see that if quarrels break out she can move him out without any problem.
“Better be careful out here today. I saw hunters out early this morning and they are trying to catch monkeys to eat or to take to the zoo!” An old monkey named Elcho called loudly.
“I heard if you go to the zoo you will be fed bananas, apples, carrots, oranges and dog food.” A spry young monkey squealed.
“Maybe so but you can’t swing through the tree tops like here and there you have to share everything. They even take your babies away sometimes. I don’t think I’d like that!” Big Bertha Squawked. She was carrying several small monkeys on her back.
“Somebody needs to get busy and watch out for the hunters. I’d hate to hear the sound of monkeys falling out of these trees!” Barked Copolo. He was one of the elder males who was famous for giving orders. He quickly scuttled on all fives making his way further up in the trees. Once there he stood upright with his tail stiff against his body. “Remember if you spot a predator make the loud “ook-brak”bark. The rest of us will begin throwing branches and shaking the tree limbs. All of you young ones need to practice screaming loudly. It takes real practice to get your vocal cords in tune. If all fails, scatter to the tops of the trees. No one is safe in the jungle. Remember those words if nothing else. Monkeys are captured and killed everyday. Don’t let this day be your day!” He cautioned.
The sounds of scores of whinnying monkeys echoed over the jungle and the monkeys greeted each other playfully. They were sniffing and hugging each other much like people do. The hunters in the distance could see the tree tops moving and the loud whinnying sounds. They sharpened their spears and began moving in that direction.
It was their holiday too and they needed food to eat. They needed monkey meat! The hunt was on!
“Did you know that we are considered good meat to eat because of our large bodies? Also, people pay lots of money for spider monkeys for pets. We have so much against us these days. We have our forest being destoryed daily, logging which removed all the trees, and these people who live here need food. I guess they get tired of roots and veggies.” Moranko responded loudly making a very ugly expression on his face for all to see. He was hoping all ears were open and receiving!
Suddenly there came a rushing wind sound that brushed up through the trees. Men’s voices could be heard below. Eyes opened wide as they saw the black body of one of the monkeys fall from the trees. Then another monkey fell, and another. The alarm sounded and all the monkeys began to throw things. They even began to throw feces at the hunters then quickly scampered to the tops of the trees. The jungle was on alert and all voices were screaming as loud as they could scream. Their holiday had been interrupted by the hunters.
As the moments passed the hunters were able to kill twelve monkeys. They turned and left thinking they had enough for their holiday meal. The screams of the monkeys went on for hours and the sun began to set in the sky. Their eyes began searching for a safe place to sleep. They were sad for those they had lost but happy to have survived another day in their precious jungle.
Before night the monkeys try to find trees that are tall but have horizontally forked branches of some thickness to support their body weight for a prolonged period of time. Sometimes they look for trees that have food as well. This way they don’t have to be moving around during the night. Sleeping up high in the tree above the canopy makes them feel safer and gives more security from their predators.
Puchio pulled Moosep close to her and with a soft voice whispered. “Go to sleep my baby, close your sleepy eyes. The lady moon will greet you throughout the heavenly skies. The sandman is peeping to see if you are sleeping. So go to sleep my baby, go to sleep! Goodnight!”
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Sybil Shearin is a published author, writer and poet from North Carolina. Her first book was “Little Hands” by Winston Derek Publishing Company. Since that time she has written hundreds of poems, articles and children’s stories. Sybil is a native of North Carolina and she enjoys her work making people happy. Please take time to visit her websites and be sure to read her stories to your children and grandchildren for they not only tell stories but teach children about animals.