Student Blog Post: "Getting to know the monkeys"

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b2ap3_thumbnail_5-8-Narasimhan.jpgMeet Rachel Narasimhan, a senior biology major at Waynesburg University. This summer, she will be interning at the Aloutta Sanctuary in Panama. She plans to share her experiences right here on the Waynesburg blog.

Hi! My name is Rachel Narasimhan, and I am entering my senior year at Waynesburg University. I am a biology major with a psychology minor. I am extremely interested in animal behavior, especially that of primates. I am going to be spending one month here at Aloutta Sanctuary, located on the Chiriqui Penninsula of Panama. It is a rehabilitation center as well as a field research station. Its main focus is mantled howler monkeys. 

It is my second day at the sanctuary, and I am learning and experiencing so much. The sanctuary has been doing amazing work, and has rehabbed and released over a dozen animals back into the wild. 

Right now we are home to two capuchin monkeys, Angie and Ace, two Geoffroy’s Tamarins, Razorblade and Mr. T, and two baby howlers, Rugby and Stevie. I’ve gotten to work hands on with all of them, and they are a handful. The capuchins are so so so smart. Angie, who came to the sanctuary in February, was tied to a pole at a gas station for an estimated ten years. She is very friendly and sweet, but gets anxious quickly when other wild caps come around her enclosure. Ace is young and rambunctious, and is a good playmate for Angie.

The Geoffrey Tamarins do not get along, so they are housed separately. If you feed Mr. T before Razorblade, Razorblade will freak out. Alone, they are wonderful little creatures who will hop all over you when you greet them. The howlers, affectionately known here as the babies, are something else. They require the most attention and they certainly love every second of it. Stevie and her mother were electrocuted by a wire when she was very young, resulting in her mother’s death and the loss of her eyesight. I am amazed at how good of a monkey Stevie still is. She climbs fearlessly in and out of trees and keeps up with Rugby just fine.

The other interns and managers have been really welcoming and helpful with my transition, but it is a lot to handle. The bugs are biting all the time, and the heat is suffocating. My first day here, I had sort of a meltdown. I’m extremely homesick and the difficulty of living in the middle of the jungle got to me. I was on baby duty at the time. Stevie, sensing my fear and sadness, climbed into my lap and cupped my chin in her hands. We locked eyes, and I think she was trying to tell me to stick it out. I’ll never forget the look she gave me and how she made me feel so much better in that moment. I’m still having a hard time adjusting, but the monkeys make it worth it.