Howler Monkeys of Colombia
I remember the first time I heard a howler monkey in Aguazul, in the Eastern Plains of Colombia. I was very young, and I was scared, their howls were so powerful that I thought they were the roars of felines, and I did not imagine that they were the calls of monkeys.
My following encounter was many years later, and it broke my heart. An enclosure made of iron bars with swings and ropes instead of branches and lianas confined the monkeys in a small space. There, crowded together, with their sad and lost gaze, they dreamed of the trees of a jungle they would never see again.
This picture from Google shows the great difference in their expressions and the lack of vitality of the monkeys who live deprived of their freedom.
That is why I wanted to see them in their habitat. I listened to them every morning while in the Sierra Nevada, but I never got to see them. On my return from La Guajira at the mouth of the Don Diego River, near Santa Marta, I saw a small family group gladly eating the leaves of a yarumo tree. I didn’t have much time to see them, but I took a few pictures of them.
Since I arrived at the “Viento Solar Reserve” on the Caribbean Coast, in the Department of Córdoba, I have also heard them very close, but they are difficult to see, we are in the rainy season, and the trees and forest are covered with thick foliage. The reddish color of their hair blends perfectly with the trunks of the trees, and they live in very high branches, more than 60 or 90 feet high.
Last week I saw a very beautiful and solitary young monkey, its hair shiny and moving quickly through the canopy. He knew that I was looking at him. He also looked back at me curiously, I don’t know how he could perceive my camera’s long lens, but after a few minutes, he lost interest and disappeared into the thicket.
Yesterday, something unusual happened. I found a whole family on top of an oak tree near a muddy trail. I could tell they had seen many humans walking along the footpath because of the calm and curiosity they looked at me, which denoted that, fortunately, they had not been hurt.
A large male, with white hairs on his chin and great body strength lazily rested on a branch. His legs dangled on either side of the trunk, and he looked at me indifferently. A young and much more active monkey ran through the branches and hid quickly without giving me time to focus on my camera.
Then, I saw two females looking at me, and only when I focused my lens on them did I realize that they had their tiny babies tangled in their long hair. The expression of interest on their curious faces and how they followed me intently, although their mothers’ movements delighted me so much.
I was very excited to see them free. These babies are being raised as they should be. I loved the feeling of observing each other without fear, without bars between us. Each one in its place, they in their canopy, me, down on the ground.
I have not processed the videos yet, but the photos show what I saw through my lens very well.
These wonderful gifts that I receive every day by living among nature give me the happiness and strength to continue photographing and sharing that unknown world to which we have done so much harm.