• Romy Jansen

It's a Wild Life! - Primates and Piranhas

Searching for wildlife is almost always exciting in a good way. We are always really looking forward to find certain species and are a bit worried because of the possibility of missing them. Every time we start our search with high hopes that the bird or mammal is just waiting for us at the parking spot. But when time passes and we are already searching for a long time, we are getting more and more nervous if we still didn’t find that crazy monkey. Luckily we had more luck with finding monkeys the past month than the first month in Brazil.


People who know us, know we are not city people. But for the Brown Howler monkey we went to São Paulo. Because of the yellow fever outbreak in 2016-2018 a lot of monkey species populations declined with up to 90% :(. Therefore it makes it even harder to find certain species. This is also the case for the Brown Howler. The best chance to see them is in the Botanical Gardens in the middle of São Paulo. It was a hot day and the Botanical Gardens opened at 9:00. Not the best time to search for primates, but we were determined to find them. We asked gardeners and local walking elderly people if they had seen the Brown Howlers or if they knew the best place to search for them. They said the Howlers are more active earlier in the morning, but we couldn’t enter earlier. So we walked around the best places to search for them and listened for any sounds in the trees. We were already getting a little bit nervous after an hour, because if we couldn’t find them quickly we might had to stay for another night in the city. But then we luckily heard something. A tree was shaking and there it was: a Brown Howler!


Another great monkey species we saw was the Golden Lion Tamarin. The adorable Golden Lion Tamarins are really threatened, because people think they are too cute to keep as a pet. Also habitat destruction/deforestation, as well as the yellow fever once made this species almost extinct! (only about 200 were left). As we didn’t know how long it would take to find the Tamarins, we were prepared to search the whole afternoon. When we drove the first 100 meter on the road with our windows down, the Tamarins were already calling us. Their calls are really loud whistles and really fun to hear. We could enjoy them for quite a while, because they were really curious. Even the GoPro was touched multiple times by them.


The Northern Muriqui was another special primate. You might remember we searched for 4 days (25+ hours) for the Southern Muriqui, which we only saw for about 2 minutes. When we arrived in the private park where we would search for the Northern Muriqui, there were Brown Howlers right above the parking spot! A special which normally never happens according to the really friendly person that runs the place. After some coffee and cake and watching the Howlers extensively, we decided to try our luck for the Muriquis. We walked about 100m when we heard the horse-like neighing: Northern Muriquis!!! That’s wildlife… sometimes it can be as simple as that!:D


In this month we also saw these species: Masked Titi/Atlantic Titi, Geoffroy's Marmoset/White-headed Marmoset, Buffy-headed Marmoset and many Black Capuchins.


Although we are not city people, we thought we couldn’t miss the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. So we took one full day to do some sightseeing. In the morning we took a cab to the statue and went with the tourist train up the hill. We wanted to be one of the first people at the top. So when another tourist friendly directed us to some Black Capuchins, we said thanks and quickly went further up the hill. He must have thought we were those kind of city-people who hate nature, as we barely gave the monkeys a second look. Oops! At the top we enjoyed the view and took some selfies with statue Jesus :)


In the afternoon we planned an excursion to go to one of the many favelas to understand a bit more how life could be when you live in poverty. At the meeting point we thought we’ve met our excursion leader. So we joined the group in the minivan and went all the way to the centre of the biggest favela. We climbed to a viewpoint to see favela from above. Suddenly the excursion leader said that we were not in the right group and that we had to wait for the other tour leader. So there we were, standing alone in the middle of a favela... Our tour leader called via WhatsApp and was angry at us for going with the wrong tour group… Well, it’s not that we enjoy being left alone in a favela…, but luckily we managed to get to the other guide. In the favela was a main street where people threw their garbage on different huge piles. The guide told us that the garbage is collected every day. We were impressed by the amount of it. Also there was no sewage system. We passed several streams with flushed toilet water that was heading straight to the ocean (in front of the most luxurious neighbourhood… so in case you wonder why that beach is always totally empty). You can imagine the smell and how dirty we felt after this afternoon. In the main street were also strategic places with ‘observers’. They were part of the drugs cartel to keep an eye out. At these points we couldn’t make pictures to not get in trouble. Although it might feel like a dangerous place to walk around, the guide told us that the drugs cartel had set up different rules with consequences. For example, theft would lead to cutting the hand of, and the second time a bullet in the head. Murder or rape would lead to the same consequence straight away. So they don’t want to risk that. Even flirting with women is not done, because that woman could be the wife of the drug lord’s accountant for example. Besides, people who live there also have normal jobs outside the favela, but can’t afford to leave the place. The favela is a cheap option to live, because there they don’t need to pay taxes for their houses, electricity is illegally tapped and water is subsidized by the government. Another interesting thing is that they don’t have an address. Mail is delivered to one mailbox in the main street, where runners would deliver it to the person in exchange for a fee. As you can imagine, it was an interesting afternoon.


In the cities we booked different hotels with private parking lots. But also at other places we sometimes book a hotel, because in Brazil there are less camping facilities available and sometimes it just doesn’t feel like a safe vibe in a certain place. When we book a hotel we always include breakfast, because in Brazil they know how to make a very good breakfast buffet. Multiple different kind of homemade cakes are available and lots of fruits like mango, pineapple and our favourite; papaya! At the buffet we are like a bunch of piranhas; when we are done with the buffet there is nothing left.


In this time period, we also took some time to relax next to hummingbird feeders. Those little energetic colourful birds are unstoppable when there is sugar water around. But these feeders give also a lot of good photo opportunities. I would say the next slide show would proof my point that Rob was killing it :)


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