Welcome to the Panamá TEACHER RESEARCH EXPERIENCE in ECOLOGY to EDUCATE STUDENTS blog! During the summer of 2011, Ms. Sarah and Ms. Thome headed back to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panamá. We set out to learn more about tropical ecology and current research in Panama, gain field experience and understand science process skills more fully. This blogs is dedicated to the teachers and students that will be working with us in the future. Enjoy!
Baby Howler Monkey Found
One morning while we were hiking on the island, we came upon one of the doctoral students, Jesse. Jesse and the members of his lab are studying ants and their feeding behaviors. He was walking out of the forest from his study site toward the lab buildings, not with his crew, but with a baby monkey! That morning while they were out distributing the food that they had prepared for the ants, they found a baby Howler monkey that had fallen out of a tree and was injured on the ground, alone. Jesse and his lab-mates made the decision to carefully put the monkey into a piece of material that they had and carry him to the lab. They hoped to find the people who study monkeys and get some help for the little guy.
It's hard to believe, but they were making a mistake. On Barro Colorado Island, many people work very carefully to minimize the role humans play in the ecological processes. Just like in Wisconsin, you may hear, "take only pictures, leave only footprints." That means, it is our responsibility to let nature take care of itself. If researchers want to take anything -plant or animal- from the forest on BCI they have to go get special permission. There is even a large part of the island where no one is allowed to go, just to preserve it from any human impact. Although they were trying to help the baby monkey, they interfered in the natural processes of the life cycle of the monkey. It is very possible that the momma was looking for her baby and that she would do what she could to care for him.
The scientific coordinator on BCI let them care for the monkey overnight, but they were under strict orders to take the baby back to the forest where he had been found the following morning. Because humans had touched the monkey, they were unsure whether the mother or the troop would take him back to care for him.
We hope that the baby monkey made it back to his family, but we won't ever know for sure.