FORUM: Monkey Island

Ross and I were on our second trip to Panama for another week of in-shore angling. The weather was calm so we did a bit of exploring in-between fishing stops.

A guide spoke of a near-by place called “Monkey Island.” He said he could take us on a short skiff ride to a small island where a monkey would emerge from the forest, climb down a tree, board the skiff, and accept pieces of fruit from people on the boat.

In retrospect, it must have been the heat: the charter master and his friend, Ross and I decided we’d go to see Monkey Island. The friend brought along a large plastic bowl filled with of a variety of freshly cut fruits.

As advertised, it was a short ride to a small island. We stopped against a bank beneath a tree, and waited.

As advertised, it didn’t take long for a monkey the height of an average man’s knee to emerge from the forest and begin climbing head-first down a tree. This was an alpha monkey—the boss of a troop of a half-dozen smaller females following him. In the photo the alpha monkey, holding a piece of fruit, has stopped, turned around, and is barking instructions to the monkeys following him from behind.

The monkey stopped chattering, turned face-down, climbed down the tree, and jumped onto the ribbing of the skiff sunscreen. As advertised, a monkey boarded the skiff.

The friend took a piece of fruit from the large bowl, placed it in a small plastic bowl, and offered it to the monkey. As advertised, a piece of fruit was accepted by the monkey.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is panama1-monkey-sampling-fruit.jpg

At this point there was no more “script,” so we didn’t know what to expect.

Slowly, carefully, quietly, meekly the monkey made its way, step-by-step, down the side of the skiff and toward the charter master’s friend in the aft—who was holding the bowl of fruit. The friend offered the monkey another piece of fruit.

Things happened very quickly from this point so there wasn’t sufficient time to take more photos using my first-generation Sony digital camera: I’ll have to write the “play-by-play.”

The monkey approved of the fruit. It wanted much more. It wanted the entire bowl of fruit, so it calmly took hold of both sides of the large bowl with its little hands.

The friend reflexively pulled the bowl out of the monkey’s hands.

The monkey immediately stood straight up, cocked its head slightly backwards, widely opened its mouth exposing four vampire-like fangs, frantically beat its chest and waved its arms, and emitted a high-pitched “all-jungle” screeching roar.

We all were paralyzed by surprise.

The monkey extended its skinny right arm to its side and then open-fist-slapped the friend, making him drop the bowl and sending him careening backwards, falling over the bench onto the deck. The monkey grabbed the bowl, walked quickly looking like a drunken sailor to where it had boarded, and retraced its path back into the forest.

This last episode was not advertised by the guide, but it certainly was the most exciting, memorable aspect of the attraction.

Monkey see, Monkey taste, Monkey take!

Monkey Island

Paul R. Yarnold, Ph.D.

March 10, 2021

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