Posted by: janinasmonos | April 5, 2011

Entrevistas…entrevistas… y más entrevistas!

Hello all 🙂

I have started my interviews (entrevistas) in San Jose, and then last week I did interviews in communities in and around Buenos Aires and San Isidro…

I had some amazing meetings in San Jose with the director of MINAET/ SINAC (Ministry of the Environment Department, and Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion), another MINAET official in Alajuela, and with one of the main biologist from ICE, who does research involving ecological assessments for hydroelectric projects in Costa Rica, such as the Diquis project near Buenos Aires.

The biologist from ICE actually told me that ICE would be interested in funding a potential phD project on squirrel monkeys and the effect of the dam projects!!! I talked to Javier Espeleta (Director of the Tropical Science Center) about this before I talked to the ICE guy… and he predicted that they would be able to support that kind of work. Thus in my meeting with the ICE biologist I brought up, that I would be able to and would like to do research on the impacts of hydrelectric dam projects on squirrel monkeys, but that the main lack is resources and funding. After the meeting he sent me an email right away and confirmed that ICE would indeed be interested in funding and supporting such research…! The next steps are that I am going to write a proposal (which I would do after my major paper, in August) about the project.
Of course I will also have to decide if I want to go down that road… and pursue a phD in Costa Rica (which would mean at least 1 – 2  years down here in the field…) but right now I think it sounds very intriguing !!

The director of SINAC/ MINAET gave me a lot of good other contacts, which I will hopefully meet with over the next weeks. He (and also the other MINAET director of the office in Alajuela) gave me very interesting statistics/ data on the animals which arrive in rescue stations (such as Zoo Ave) and are reported to MINAET each month/ year for the last years. Very good background info for my paper!

Up until today I have interviewed over 40 people in over 40 different households …. and more are to come tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday this week. After that I am taking a deserved break and will be heading to San Jose and to a Psy Trance Party with my friends Sascha and Eva on Saturday, and to the Islands Bocas del Toro in Panama (also with Sascha and Eva probably) on Sunday… because on the 10th (Sunday) I have to leave the country since it will be the 90th day in Costa Rica for me… which means that my 90-day-Tourist Visa is going to run out. I can’t believe how fast this time has flown by… que loco!

So the interviews… they are going quite well I think. You guys can’t imagine how exhausted I was after each day of interviewing in the first week (!)… It is extremely tiring to listen to very fast, sometimes hard-to-understand, and indigenous (very hard to understand) Spanish, write in English, think in Spanish, English, and German, and then ask questions, respond, and talk in Spanish…. AAAHHH!!

However, the people are amazing for the most part. Many are very “talkative”.. which leads from a supposedly only “10-minute-long” interview (with about 10 questions) to a half-an-hour to 45-minutes or longer conversation…  Also because Luis, who is mostly accompanying me and driving me around to the communities, is starting to chat, and so we end up talking about everything else but monkeys for the some part of the interview. It’s all good though- some conversations are quite interesting.

My main conclusions I can draw up until now are that people are aware of endangered species, such as monkeys. Most people know that they are threatened by extinction, and they know that you should not own them as a pet. However, many people answer to the question “Why are they endangered?” that people capture, hunt, and kill them… which is extremely interesting. Many people also realize that deforestation is a big problem. Furthermore, only very few people know someone who owned/ owns a pet-monkey. Another (rather concerning) finding is that some people confuse squirrel monkeys with Cara Blancas (Capuchin monkeys), which are not threatened by extinction and quite abundant. That confusion leads to the assumption that all monkeys are quite abundant and that they are not endangered…! I interview all sorts of people- mainly women of course, since they are the ones who stay at home while the dad’s are out working. I have interviewed a 91 -year old Tica lady, who lived at the same spot in a community near Buenos Aires for her whole life… She definitely has seen some stuff happening! She said that about a decade ago squirrel monkeys used to come by her house (although, she might confuse them with Cara Blancas…) but today they don’t come by the house anymore. I am also interviewing many very young mothers… which is very interesting for me. Most women here get pregnant very early, and have already 2 kids or more by the time they turn 25… I’ve interviewed one woman who was the same age as I am, and she had 4 kids… crazy! It is such a different life here… and most people live in really poor surroundings, but still seem so happy and content.

So far I have found 4 people who owned monkeys in the past, and only one person who currently owns a squirrel monkey… That is not a big deal though, I will still have plenty to write about. And it’s actually quite good (!) that there are not many people with squirrel monkeys in this region. I am realizing more and more that they are probably more people with pet squirrel monkeys along the coasts and near the “prime” squirrel monkey areas Manuel Antonio and Corcovado… Hence, I am planning to travel there as well and have a look around and ask some people…

But generally, rather sooner than later I will need to finish my interviewing and start to just concentrate on writing the major paper… I haven’t really written that much yet and I need to get going with that.

I am receiving amazing compliments on my Spanish, and now also from Luis and Carmen who have noticed how much my Spanish improved over the last 3 months…! I am really understanding everything in my interviews – I only have to ask twice rarely to clarify things… yeay me! Thanks to three months of Spanish in Canada, three months of living with a Spanish family here, and my (fantastic) language skills lol.. ;).

I might get some German visitors in the end of April (two girls who are traveling in Central America right now- I know one of them from years ago). Then in the beginning of May the York University field trip will be arriving here.. and I am super excited for them to be here! There will most likely be a special “monkey afternoon” where I am going to tell the students about my work and we’ll try to spot the monkeys near La Escondida… However, that means while the German girls are here and during the field trip= “less working on major paper”. That’s stressing me out already! Suzanne wants the first draft of the major paper in the end of May… Time is flying by and that date is coming closer and cloooserrr….

Otherwise, many of you probably already know, I have adopted a little kitty… her name is Mika, and she is the most adorable thing on earth… although she is growing up fast and starting to scratch and bite pretty hard… (have two scratch marks in my face right now and she almost scratched my eye the other day.. baaad kittyyy), but I still love her…. Carmen and Javier do to, and so I think she might end up staying here.. as much as I’d like to take her with me to Canada… buy my chaotic lifestyle is really probably not the best thing for a young kitty who is used to having several hectares of forest-playground …! Hence, she might be the new La Escondida pet.. and a memory to Luis, Carmen, and Javier of me… lol! .. Also, I could swear that since yesterday morning until tonight she grew like 1 cm taller… you can almost watch her grow. She develops so fast.. learns so quickly… it’s fascinating. It’s the first little kitty I’ve ever been able to spend this much time with and it’s fantastic. Although, it will be even harder to leave here since I now also have to leave her here… which bring me to my next topic:

I just bought my ticket back to Toronto… for the 4th of June 2011… can’t still believe I got a flight back! Got an amazing (!) deal with Air Canada- for 380 Canadian Dollars one-way and non-stop! Whooop!! All the other flights on all the other days are all over 550 Can Dollars one-way… and then on Saturday the 4th there was this unbelievable cheap non-stop flight… aweeesome!

There is now an “official” end to my time here.. which makes me really sad and stressed out again at the same time ! Stressed out because it makes me realize how little time I have left for this Major Paper research and writing this paper… and because I still want to spend time with Mika, Carmen, Luis, and Javier, and I wanted to do so much more stuff here… see Corcovado, Monteverde, Tortuguero de Limon, more of Guanacaste, and Nicaragua… hmmm something tells me I might be coming back here to Costa Rica sooner rather than later..! And who knows, I might end up doing some of the stuff here still before I leave. I have to do some traveling for my paper still for sure, which will include Corcovado… and maybe Guanacaste. We’ll see what happens.

Lately I have been getting up at about 5am- the usual hour at which Mika decided that that’s wake-up-time. That’s the time when the birds and cicadas wake up and it starts to get light out. Hence, Mika also begins to be active and jumps on my head and bites my feed… to a point when I am just awake and have to get up. I managed sometimes to get her back to sleep for another hour till 6am… but that’s not always successful. Breakfast has been around 6:30 or 7 am for me lately, and we’re usually heading out for interviews at 7:30am.

So, I better go to bed soon to be fit for more entrevistas tomorrow…. Mika is already sleeping deeply on my side…

Below: Slideshow of random photographs of the last few weeks… Longo Mai, the community where Sascha and Eva used to live at first, Sascha, Eva, Dane, Dominical, Mika, Carara National Park (near San Jose), and more…

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Posted by: janinasmonos | March 18, 2011


Hello peeps..

So let’s see… what happened since my last post… ?

In the end of March I left for a trip to Rara Avis and visited my friend Don up there… I thought I’d be staying for only 3 nights, ended up there for 5. It was one of the most interesting, diversity rich, and pristine wet rainforests I have seen so far… plus the word “wet” has a whole new meaning at Rara Avis. Everything is literally constantly wet or damp. It rained (luckily) only 2 out of 5 days continuously… on the other 3 days it only rained occasionally. So as you can see the climate up there is quite different from the climate at La Escondida.. where you can definitely feel that we’re in the middle of the dry season – we only have rain on rare occasions… Otherwise it’s boiling hot and sunny all day.

Rara Avis rainforest lodge is located on the Caribbean side of the country which is in one of the largest connected rainforest systems of the country. It is adjacent to and connected with Braulio Carrillo National Park and the La Selva Biological Station. The bus takes visitors to Los Horquetas.. and then you wait at the office in Los Horquetas for the tractor… yes that’s right, a tractor. The tractor ride takes 3 hours, and if you like you can walk about 3 km of it in the end (or walk the whole 15 km… which is rather recommended for the way down since it’s downhill). The tractor ride was one of the “bumpiest” experiences you could ever imagine… on Rara Avis’ website they recommend women to wear a sportsbra… I found out why, and of course I forgot to wear mine! On the hike for the last kilometers we got soaking wet – plus one of the bridges was broken (it only consists of a few large tree trunks aligned next to each other). Hence, the tractor got stuck and arrived about 1 – 2 hours after us at the lodge.

(picture: Hotel at Rara Avis and Tractor 🙂

The lodge is is fantastic – lots of space for plenty of people. There are different accommodation options -Cabanas, Casitas, and the Hotel… all are spaced apart quite far, so you don’t notice how many people could actually stay there. While I was there, there were only few people – only for a couple of nights there were about 30 including a gap-group (Costa Rican gap groups always have a 2 day stopover at Rara Avis). I’ve met plenty of awesome people and had an amazing time. The name “Rara Avis” means something like strange bird, but it actually refers to the type of people traveling to the lodge… and that is definitely true- you don’t meet the typical backpacker or tourist there… everybody shows a sincere interest in nature and likes to learn about the rainforest and its ecology, which was really amazing to see!

Otherwise I saw some amazing wildlife I haven’t seen in Costa Rica before… including several different snakes species, such as Eyelash Vipers (two, one while climbing in a tree…), a Hog-nosed Pitviper, and green vine snakes, a kinkajou, Coatis, tons of birds, and fresh Tapir, Ocelot and Puma tracks (which is basically as close as you can get to those species)…!

After I came back down from the forest I happened to run into the owner and the manager of Rara Avis at the office – Amos Bien and Viviana. Up at Rara Avis I had already talked to the guys working there about what you’d have to do to work up there… and then when I talked to Amos and Viviana it became clear that I would have to option to becoming a naturalist guide up at the lodge. They always need experienced people with an ecology background, knowledge of and experience with rainforests, Costa Rican wildlife, and Tourism. Plus I do speak the three main languages spoken at the lodge – German, English, and Spanish. Hence, I was offered to send my CV to Viviana, and become a naturalist guide after my degree. What an opportunity! I would love to do it, but I am still thinking about it… there is a lot that comes with it, such as total seclusion from the world (except interaction with the tourists and staff up there) and a minimum commitment of 3 months… I will definitely send my CV in and think about it though.

On my way back from San Jose to Quizarra I met two amazing German people – Eva and Sascha, who are both volunteers in a farm and town very close by San Isidro, near Buenos Aires (right in my study area). They ended up coming with me to La Escondida and stayed for a night. We had a really fun time and decided to hang out more often- since we are all living here and are so close by! Hence, we ended up heading to Dominical (the nearest beach town from here, it’s about 1 hour by bus) a few days later, I visited them for a night at their place in Longo Mai, and we are in fact going to Dominical again tomorrow for a night :)…

A group of students from Quebec (high school students- all between 15 and 16 years old) had already arrived 2 days before I came back to Quizarra, and thus La Escondida was full and busy! For a week we had 2 kids and 2 profs staying in the house, and the rest of the 25 people were spread across families in Quizarra and Santa Elena. It was nice to have some people around here and I joined the kids for some activities- for example one afternoon we played soccer on a huge (!) field… I shot one goal too 🙂 yeay but I was sore all over my body for 3 days.

It’s been literally a very social last few weeks… and I didn’t get as much work done as I’d have liked… haha.

Last weekend Ernesto (the oldest son), Ivan (second oldest son), Ivan’s girlfriend Cynthia, and I went out Salsa and Merengue dancing here in Santa Elena- which was so much fun! After that I went to see my friends Sascha and Eva at Longo Mai, the place were they are staying! It is such a fantastic place, to fully understand you’ll have to read this website: Longo Mai. The main aim of Longo Mai is to provide a sustainable environment with ecological agriculture and a great community feel. Sascha and Eva will be living there for 6 months and help out with whatever needs to be done… it is part of their ecological agriculture degree (both of them study in Berlin). How awesome is that? Then another friend, Dane from the US – who was staying at Longo Mai with Eva and Sascha as well, and who we all met in Dominical the last time, came to stay at La Escondida for a couple of nights too. It’s really nice to have visitors here – and every time it makes me realize how amazing and beautiful this place is!! I truly live in a paradise… the calls of the Chestnut-mandibles Toucans are waking me up in the morning, every now and then a flock of wild parrots is flying over the house, and you can watch the Capuchin monkeys play who come and visit the house in the morning to pick up their bananas…

Now, I am finally getting back into work mode. My new proposal got approved, I started to officially write (!) the first pages of my Major Paper (whoooho), and I set up 4 very important interviews for next Monday and Tuesday in San Jose. I will be starting my “community” interviews next Wednesday and probably conduct interviews until about the 8th of April…
I might still conduct a few more interviews later on in April and travel to some animal rescue centers in the country…!

After the 8th of April I will have to leave the country since I will have hit the “3 months mark” – I am only allowed to stay in the country for 3 months on a tourist Visa. But no worries- I will just travel to Panama for 4-5 days and return and get a fresh and new 3 months Visa :)…

Before I am heading out to Panama I will need to book my Canada-return flight… currently I am thinking to extent my stay slightly and come back in the beginning of June. I am also planning to book my flight to Germany at some point soon… and I am still planning on heading to D-land in the beginning of August (after the 4th, since that’s until I’ll be house-and-petsitting)..

Otherwise, I am really getting slowly better and better with my Spanish… today I had my first phone conversation in which I understood entirely everything without asking the person to repeat stuff and could say what I wanted without looking stuff up… yeay. I will be conducting interviews with the Ministry of Environment next week alone and in Spanish too… but I am confident that it won’t be a problem… Unbelievable how quickly you can be immersed into a language. I think that my Spanish right now is at the level that my English was when I first went to New Zealand. I can understand stuff, get the gist of conversations (if kept somewhat simple), and somewhat express myself, but of course there is still lots I don’t know or don’t understand.

So now you’re totally updated…! Regarding my research I will be writing more about that once I know more… which will be after I have started my interviewing next week! It will be very exciting to hear what people have to say… and I will probably have some interesting and funny stories to tell…!

Posted by: janinasmonos | March 11, 2011

Tsunami Warning for Costa Rica

Hello friends,

I just wanted to send you a quick update that I am not affected by the Tsunami warning…!

I was in fact at the West coast beach yesterday during the day with friends- but we went back home in the evening… So now I am inland and safe. I also believe that from what I’ve read that the waves are not going to be very big and thus that there is not much to worry about here…

It’s terrible what happened and I hope not too many more people in Japan are going to be affected. The world is shaking all over the place… first New Zealand, now Japan… it is very scary!

I will update my blog shortly with stories and photos from Rara Avis and the last weeks…


Posted by: janinasmonos | February 8, 2011

Youtube Videos

I’ve uploaded some new videos on youtube.

Posted by: janinasmonos | February 8, 2011

Living in Costa Rica

I had a really nice last couple of weeks. I had a first visitor here at La Escondida, my friend Don, who is working for a rainforest station North of San Jose on the Caribbean site. He taught me how to climb trees – which was so much fun. If I’d had my own equipment I’d be able to climb now (since there are no official certifications in place or needed). Chris, a York U phD who is doing research on Woodpeckers and tree cavities and who is coming here with his girlfriend Andrea for about a year in the end of February, will bring his own tree climbing equipment as well- which means I might be able to climb again then :). So for the last week I reduced my field work time a little bit and concentrated on the more touristy-fun stuff in the area: Las Nubes and Los Cosingos.

I was reminded that I should write a little bit more about my “life” down here. I am living with my host family Carmen and Luis, and two of their sons who are staying at the house right now, Javier and Ivann. Ivan just came to live here a few days ago, since he started to do the annual bird-banding which will be going on every morning from now for 1 1/2 months. Javier is 16 and is in his last year of high school. He is one of the happiest and laziest teens I have ever met :). We have been hanging out quite a lot since Carmen and Luis are often gone in the evenings to go to Carmen’s soccer games and practices or to meet family. We make dinner together (prepared by Carmen of course, so we only have to warm it up 😉 ) and watch TV, and talk about Music and stuff. And yes, that is all mainly in Spanish> Javier speaks a tiny bit of English and likes to learn more from me. It’s handy because I can actually ask him “Come se dice…” and he actually often knows the Spanish translation (for simple words of course). Ivann has a cute girlfriend who I’ve met several times. Tonight is Ivann’s graduation ceremony from University which we are all going to going to go to. Yesterday, Carmen and I went shopping in San Isidro to actually get her a nice new outfit for the occasion! It took her approximately 8 shops and 3 hours of “Esta falda is muy guapa” and “Me gusta esta mucho!” until she decided for a nice skirt. I bought some new flip flops for myself since my 3-Dollar flip flops were falling apart after 1 week of being here.

I am entirely immersed in a Spanish speaking environment. I can express myself and can basically say what I want, which is nice! Of course it takes me like 3 times as long to form a sentence which includes lots of “aahhmms”.. but I can do it. What I don’t like is that feeling that everything I say sounds wrong, so sometimes I just won’t say anything at all for a while or repeat one sentence or word, that I am sure is correct, over and over again (for example “muy interesante” or “muy bueno”). That must be kind of annoying for my host family haha. I am definitely not fluent yet, but I can mostly understand people and talk – which is a 100 % improvement of last time I was here (when I literally only knew how to say thanks and goodbye). When doing interviews I can get the information I need, even if I have to ask 2-3 times to make 100% sure I understood correctly. It is so interesting to be able to talk to indigenous people here – the actual Spanish natives who live mainly here in the Talamanca mountain region of Costa Rica. Their Español is horrible to understand though, so often Luis has to explain to me after our interview what they said. I am so lucky to have someone like Luis who is helping me with my field work and everything. Without him I’d be totally lost ! It is also so interesting to finally dive into his and other people’s traditional knowledge… it’s unbelievable how much interesting stuff they know. It was the best decision ever to do a 3 months Spanish intensive course before coming here and I’d recommend to anybody doing research here to do the same…!

In about 2 weeks La Escondida is going to get busy- they are expecting a group of about 24 students from Quebec  – 6 of them are going to stay with us, the rest is spread out on families in the area. They are going to stay here for a week and I’m super excited for some action and people :). After that Chris and Andrea are finally going to get here (beginning of March) which I am also super excited about.

My plan is to stay here for the entire month of February – and get as much Buenos Aires and research time as possible. In the beginning to middle of March I am planning to do some more extra-curricular activities. I want to head up to Rara Avis and get to know the Carribean rainforest a little bit more. I’d also like to finally go and see Monte Verde. Another plan is to visit the researcher couple (Weston’s) at Playa Del Fin in the Gulfo Dulce in the very South of Costa Rica. There is another population of monkeys down there which I’d like to have a look at. There is a chance I might even do research down there.. but I have to hear back from them first (currently waiting for a response).

It’s been almost a whole month since I got here – unbelievable how fast time is flying by..!

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Posted by: janinasmonos | February 8, 2011

New Research Ideas

Over the last few weeks we went to Buenos Aires about 4- 5 times and tried to track down the monkeys there. Finally (!) got a first glimpse at some of the monkeys (about 6-7 individuals). However, it became clear right away that the monkeys are not habituated at all (which means they are not used to humans and are afraid of them) – which is bad news for me. Non-habituation shows i behavioral activities, such as loud alarm calls and flight into the forest. Through talking to locals over the last few days we found out that the population down there might be larger than we originally thought – according to two different sources there are more than 100 monkeys in the area. Of course Ticos tend to over exaggerate, so I assume there are maybe around 50 – 100 individuals. It makes sense, since the forest there is quite large (more than 100 hectares). However, if there are really over 100 monkeys why is it so damn difficult to see them?

I have been in touch with an American researcher who studied squirrel monkeys in the Manuel Antonio area for over 1 year. We have been emailing back and forth and she told me not to give up – persistence is the key in squirrel monkey research. She said that she sometimes went for weeks without getting to see a single monkey…My supervisor confirmed this as well and said I’ve done really well so far and congratulated me on seeing them within such a short time of field work- that made me feel much better.

There are also some other news regarding my research. Given the fact that the monkeys here near Las Nubes/ La Escondida are indeed released former pet monkeys, I decided to change my focus a little bit: I am going to look more closely at the pet trade and hunting pressures on squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica. It seems that pet trade and capturing of monkeys is still extremely popular and one of the main threats for monkeys. This has major implications for their conservation of course. Hence, over the next few weeks I will look more deeply into the regulations in place, talk to the Ministry of Environment officials, and read more literature on the issue. I am really excited about this! My supervisor said that looking into this will definitely lead me to a publishable paper, which of course is not the most important goal, but I think that a published paper has higher chances of actually having an impact of some sort (which would be awesome of course). The next plan is to camp out in Buenos Aires for a night to get maybe a better chance of getting to see the monkeys in the morning and evening. It’s going to be difficult but we’ll try our best.

My supervisor said if I’m going to look more closely into the pet trade/ hunting topic, I actually won’t have to observe the monkeys at all… Hence, I’ve decided that If I don’t get to see the monkeys by the end of February, I will concentrate entirely on interviewing people and getting into the whole pet trade and hunting thing more deeply. It kind of sucks, since I really would like to do the field work and spend time with the monkeys… but I am on a time line and have deadlines for my Master degree… so there is really just so much I can do. I wish I’d be in my phD already and had a year down here – I am thinking more and more about actually doing that and continuing my work here as a phD. It is really true what they say – once you look into a research area you find out how much there is to do, and you see that you basically never have enough time to actually produce something which will have a positive impact.

Posted by: janinasmonos | January 28, 2011

Last week, hiking & prime monkey time

Hola amigos,

I realized that I haven’t written for a while now. Lots of stuff happened. I started my field work finally (as you already saw – I posted the “first field day” video on youtube). Since then I had three more times with my monkeys – and today was one of the longest contacts yet (the time I got to spend with them got continuously more). We were able to observe them up really close for over 3 hours. I still wasn’t able to collect any poop yet though- and that is unfortunately quite important for the future analysis I’m planning on doing. So, we figured out a different plan: To ask the lady from the finca, who is always feeding the monkeys, to do that job for us! She said she is “cleaning up” monkey poop all the time since they are hanging out at and near the house a lot. I told her what she had to do, gave her clean medical gloves and zip locks, and she seemed to be happy/ glad to help. Let’s see what happens- I kind of feel to be entirely sure that what I am collecting is fresh and actually monkey poop, I should do it myself. But for now it might be useful to let her do some collecting too. And that is how you “involve” the community in scientific research.. haha.

I also found out so far that my two monkeys near La Escondida are a couple – female and a male. I also learned that monkeys apparently do “Power napping” – sometimes they just curl up in the canopy and sleep for like 20 minutes (they did that twice today). Something wakes them up again and they get going with their active lifestyle. Squirrel monkeys are literally constantly moving and eating. I sympathize with that, but it is really difficult to follow them at times, since they all of a sudden “freak out” and jump and run around in the canopy like crazy. If you look on your GPS for just one minute too long and look up again, they are gone! We also found out that they literally live “around” the farm – they never go much further than maybe 500 m- 1000 m away from the finca. The area where they live is basically just tiny forest corridors intermixed with farm and cattle land, pig stalls, stinky cow dung pools, and some banana plantations. If you wouldn’t know the monkeys enjoy being there so much, it would not really seem like an ideal habitat. But I think they are pretty happy with things there- they have plenty of Insects to chew on and bananas to pick up at the house everyday. They basically arrive at the house, “shriek” for a bit, and the farm lady comes out and leaves them some bananas. A half a banana basically fills the entire tummy of one of those tiny monkeys. So that’s lots of food. However, they devote about 70-80 % of their daily activity to finding food.

Yesterday, we tried to find the monkeys in the area near Buenos Aires. Javier, Luis, and I ventured out on a 4 hour hike through secondary and mostly primary forest. For those of you who don’t really know what that means = primary forest is “old growth” forest, with very thick and inaccessible understory, and lots of steep/ inaccessible slopes, intermixed with streams and rivers. At some point we reached a point where we just couldn’t get any further- a very steep slope leading down to the river/ stream. The slope was high and too steep to walk. Luis walked around for a bit and after a while called me and Javier into the thick understory- he found a liana which was leading most of the steep part down. The liana was pretty thick and strong – but I was a little worried about it holding all my weight nevertheless. I trust Luis knowledge though, and shortly I was rappelling (abseilen) down on a liana. Everything was over in just a couple of minutes and I was happy down in the “valley”. We continued our walk all the way along the stream (and sometimes a bit in the stream too). But after all we couldn’t find the monkeys. The area is actually not that large – around 70 hectares. But finding these little monkeys is really like finding needles in a hay stack – they could literally be right behind us and we wouldn’t know. The Buenos Aires troop is definitely going to be a challenge!

I was a little sick after the first two field days and had to take another 3 days break. On the weekends, especially Sunday, Luis takes “his day off work” – so that will mostly be a field-work free day. Otherwise I am trying to fit in as much field work time as possible. Tomorrow though, we decided to head up to Las Nubes, York University’s cloud forest reserve, for the first time since I got back here. It will be quite the hike as well – and will have nothing to do with monkeys. So just some hiking for “fun”. On Sunday we’ll take the day off, and Monday we’ll be back in the field again. I can’t believe how quickly time goes by when you’re down here…


Posted by: janinasmonos | January 22, 2011

First Video of my monos!

This is the first video I made out of tons of footage from my first day with the monkeys.

I’m sorry about the “shakyness” of the videos but I’m still getting used to filming and using a video camera in the field.

The quality is rather bad because I had to reduce the video size by a lot in order to upload it on youtube. The original is much better, but it would have taken forever to upload.

I have included footage which might be a little boring to you guys but this video is basically for my own research and memory of what happens in the field each day and for me every little detail is important.


Posted by: janinasmonos | January 20, 2011

Update: Internet :) yeay!

Hola amigos,

The Internet is indeed working up here – even though it is kind of flaky. Sometimes it works good and other times really bad and nothing will load. I don’t think that Skype is working up here – I tried it earlier with my supervisor and she couldn’t hear me. However, the chat might work and also facebook chat works (mostly). Despite the surprising internet availability at my station, I will mostly use it for research purposes. I won’t be online much. I don’t want to be stuck on facebook anymore, I was kind of looking forward to getting away from all of the connectivity.
But I am much more easily reached via email (also since my cell phone here is definitely NOT able to receive or send any messages to other countries than Costa Rica- so DON’T send messages, it’s just a waste of money). It is also nice to be able to do regular blog updates, write emails, and post status updates.

Right now I am sitting in my bed in my super nice cabana with my legs covered with a paste of baking soda and water. My supervisor Suzanne told me that it is the best home remedy against itching. It definitely seems to help, although it might be the strong anti-histamine I took earlier too. My red blotches disappeared from my face today for the most part- my entire upper body seems to be getting much better and is itch-free. My legs are the only thing that are itchy as hell !!

Otherwise I tried all afternoon to find a manual for my GPS device online, read the manual, and try to get that thing to work! I think I’ve figured out how it “should work” and what I did wrong all afternoon, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’ll get up early tomorrow to do a GPS-test run before heading into the field at around 7am. This afternoon we went to the finca where the monkeys like to hang out very often and eat the bananas. The owner told us that he saw the monkeys there yesterday at around 5pm – so they are definitely in the area. I’ve decided to go into the field and basically “practice” on the former pet-monkeys, since it is much easier to locate them and because they are already habituated (used to) humans. After a few days of field work here I think we’ll move on to the other troop near Buenos Aires, which is about 50km South of here.

Ok wish me luck that the GPS will work and that I’ll get some prime monkey time 🙂



Posted by: janinasmonos | January 20, 2011

Finally at La Escondida

Hola amigos,

I am finally here. Despite the bed bug attack in San Jose I am feeling great. The backpackers there turned out to be infested with the parasites and I got bitten soo much … I must have had about 100 bites – and also about 10 in my face. Funnily though they didn´t swell up until yesterday morning… so 1 day later. I woke up at La Escondida and looked in the mirror and couldn´t believe all the huge red blotches in my face and all over my body. I haven´t noticed it the previous day (so right after the night I got bitten). It probably took a few days for the reaction to kick in. Anyways, so I looked terrible, and Luis decided to bring me to a pharmacia and to ask for some medication. I received an injection with pretty strong anti-histamine stuff into my bum muscle – and I felt itch free… until the night! They also gave me stronger anti-histames (I only had Benadryl and apparently that´s not good enough) which I am starting to take today. I have also been on anti-biotics for the last 5 days due to a mild infection I got in Montezuma. So, my health is not the best right now and my body is in a bit of a chaos as always. I am starting to get better though and since there are (hopefully) not bed bugs at La Escondida, I should be fine really soon!

Anyhow, everything here is great! I was super stocked to get back here – everything is just as it was in May EXCEPT there is much less rain! In fact there was no rain so far. It is definitely the dry season right now! Also another very cool difference is the abundance of birds (!) at La Escondida right now. There are TONS of song birds, Toucans, Hummingbirds… etc so many more than back in May. As i understood from Luis there are not many birds in may due to migration etc., but now it´s basically the peak. I was then wondering why the field trip is not happening earlier… like in February. It would have been so much easier to count birds.

When I moved into my cabin I rescued a little Green-Crowned Honeycreeper (from the Tanager family) from my cabin. It got stuck in there sometime during the day while the door was open. It was super exhausted from bumping into the window and I could capture it really easily. It was so exhausted that it was just sitting calmly and still in my hand… and even slowly closed it eyes (almost as falling asleep) because it must have been so exhausted! I showed it to Luis and Carmen and then just when Carmen tried to take it, it flew away… It was such a neat experience because I love those little birds and they are feel so soft, fragile and tiny in your hand.

So today we went into town and bought an internet stick! Yeay Technology again!! It seems there could even be internet up at La Escondida after all…! It would make things so much easier with my research – and of course also staying in touch, uploading photos and videos, etc !

So I´ll let you know soon if it worked! Today we are heading out to ask the people who apparently owned the monkeys in our area… yes they are indeed released pets which changes things quite a lot. There is no need for us to capture the monkeys if we already know what they are and where they came from. So my focus will change more towards a different goal. We are going to look more closely at the naturally occurring troop near Buenos Aires, around 1 hour drive from La Escondida. Luis is going to come with me into the field for the first few weeks, and I might even have the option to get a super nice field assistent who is a student at the Universidad de Costa Rica! So those things are going well! Tomorrow will probably be our first ¨field¨day.

I´ll keep you updated and I hope to upload some video footage sometime soon!

Pura Vida!!

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