While researching a book in Costa Rica, I was lucky enough to encounter three different kinds of New World monkeys. And, perhaps not surprisingly, my original book project got put on hold. Those monkeys were just too irresistible.
I didn’t bring an alarm clock on my trip, but it wasn’t a problem. Each morning, the loud, low calls of howler monkeys woke me at the crack of dawn. Near the end of the trip, I was able to see these monkeys at very close range.
As I headed off to breakfast each morning, I often saw spindly spider monkeys swinging through the tree tops, looking for their own morning meal. I saw them foraging again in the late afternoon. In the middle of the day, these smart monkeys take a siesta to avoid the hot sun.
But it was a single tiny capuchin monkey that really captured my heart. One afternoon, I spotted the little guy (or girl) climbing up a tree. It had set its sights on a bright red panchira flower, which it plucked with two fingers and then ate petal by petal. I watched that monkey forage in the forest canopy for nearly three hours. It was amazing.
When I came home, I started researching New World monkeys, and discovered the group was a lot more diverse and complicated that I’d ever imagined. There are more than six different species, from the pygmy marmoset, which is small enough to fit inside a teacup, to the woolly spider monkey, which can weight as much as thirty pounds.
I was hooked. I wrote a proposal, sent it out, and soon enough New World Monkeys became a book.
And what happened to the book I was supposed to be working on in Costa Rica? Well, it’s still not published, but it’s getting there. Right now, it’s scheduled for publication in 2013.