The lush green foliage and the green vines twisted and twined their way through the rainforest of Costa Rica. The exotic flowers created an eye catching sight. Their colors were as many as the trees that stood tall and erect providing a canopy over the one of the most beautiful places on earth. The tiny country of Central America is the home of over 10,000 different kinds of plants and trees.
High in the canopy of the rainforest lives one of the most unusual animals to be sure. It is known to all the people there and to all visitors who happen to hear it as the Howler Monkey. Swinging through the trees, the male calls loudly his voice echoing for up to four miles. He is telling all the other male monkeys that they had better not come into his territory or there will be a heavy price to pay. He is somewhat of a boast because he is only about two feet in length not a monster as the holler might imply. He uses his long tail that is almost a yard long to wrap around the tree limbs so he can use his hands and feet for other purposes.
“Did you know that the Howler monkey is one of the slowest and laziest monkeys on earth?” Mr. Harper asked.
“Why are they so slow?” Tom asked a young boy who loved to visit Mr. Harper’s basement jungle.
“They are slow because they only eat leaves, flowers and plants. Those things do not give them very much energy so they sleep up to fifteen hours in a day. They hardly ever get in a rush like us humans do.” He grinned.
Mr. Harper was a retired biology professor and a person who loved to explore new and exotic things. His basement was filled with all sorts of plants, flowers, and creatures.
“You would think they would not live very long but they normally live up to twenty years. However, they are quickly becoming one of the species that are endangered. In fact they may be gone in our lifetime. Your children may never have the opportunity to see a live one if the big companies do not stop cutting down all the trees.” He explained.
“Are they all black?” Tom asked as he looked at the picture on the desk in front of him.
“No in fact the females are more brown or orange. Only the males stay black. They look like creepy black monsters swinging through the tops of the trees. They are quite furry but the long tail has no hair underneath it. It is probably caused by its constant wrapping around tree limbs. I guess it just wears all the hair off its tail.” He winked.
“Do they really fight other males?” Tom inquired.
“Oh yes they do! They try not to fight because it takes up so much of their energy but they will if another male comes into his territory. The males even kill the little babies if the mother’s are not constantly watching over them. Sounds somewhat like the male cat don’t it?”
“Yep! I just don’t understand why a father would kill his own child. It makes no sense to me.” Tom replied shaking his head.
“Well I believe the biggest reason is that if he kills the baby, the mother will most likely want to mate soon after. All males like to mate. It is just the way males are created. I suppose males are made to keep the world populated. I think we do a pretty good job don’t you?”
“I suppose but it seems sick to me. Why can’t they just wait until the baby gets old enough to grow and eat for himself? It seems like if he would let the baby live and then have more, it would be better.” Tom reasoned.
“Did I ever tell you about the time my wife and I went to visit the rainforest in Costa Rica? It was so very funny. We were on a tour hiking out in the rainforest when all of a sudden this horrible sounding roar came from over our heads. It sounded louder than a whale. My wife nearly wet her pants it scared her so bad. To tell you the truth I was pretty frightened myself. I had no idea that such a small monkey could make such a loud noise but we got to see some of the most beautiful plants on earth. I have one here in my basement that I have kept since we went. It blooms the most gorgeous blossom you have ever seen. Its colors are magnificent. If you ever get a chance to visit Costa Rica please do go. You will see things you have never seen before and most likely never see again.” Mr. Harper advised.
“The cloud forest is absolutely breathtaking. The fogs are so mysterious and the huge ferns and mounds of green moss are just fabulous. No one can really explain where the fog comes from but we know it causes these awesome places to still exist. Hopefully these countries will wise up and keep the loggers out. We need to keep our rainforest and the eco system in check.” Mr. Harper caught himself teaching again and slapped himself across the face.
“I just can’t break the habit!” He grinned. “It’s the towering trees, gorgeous flowers and looping vines that create this magical wispy environment for all the animals in Costa Rica. One day I just might move there. If I do I’ll invite you to come and visit.” He said with a smile and a wink.
“Well I’m not wishing you to move but I would accept the invitation!” Tom answered quickly.
“I better get going and pick up the laundry before my wife gets home. Do you need a ride?” Mr. Harper asked Tom.
“Nope I think I’ll walk through the park on the way home. Maybe I’ll scare the pants off some girl with a loud holler!” He snickered.
As the night fell and Tom drifted off to sleep he dreamed of the black furry monkeys swinging through the trees calling out in their loud voices warning other males not to come near.
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Question for children: Why does the Howler monkey move so slowly?