Dec. 5, 2014
Howler Monkeys gone Wild
Calakmul world heritage site Maya ruins and Biosfera reserve treated Yucatan Bill , me, and about 20 totally clueless tourists to a battle royale for dominance of a 12 member Howler Monkey pack. We had watched the pack resting and lounging-about in the distance about 2 hours earlier ~ the first howler monkeys in the wild Bill and I had ever seen ~ never expecting what was just over the horizon.
A free-for-all pitched battle started right in front of the Big Pyramid (Estructura #2) – when a big strong #2 male challenged #1, for Leader of the Pack… in the treetops, right next to the bottom set of stairs in this foto.
A wild battle raged for over 20 minutes … 4 big male howler monkeys thrashing and crashing around the top of the jungle canopy, jockeying for position, slashing at each other’s flanks with nasty canines , as the majority remainder of the troop of Howler spectators (6-8 others) ~ hooted, howled and roared – and watched for a winner.
After 20 minutes of a pitched tree-top see-sawing battle, #1 – the Leader of the Pack managed to corner the Usurper (#2) onto a limb with no easy escape, as #3 and #4 – the Lieutenants solidly flanked the Usurper on both left and right.
The Leader then pressed the assault up the middle – driving the Usurper further & further out onto the limb – on the tree you see next to the stairs, at the slight break in the trees – a gap that trapped the Usurper … as the Lieu’ies #’3 & #4 slashed at the Ursuper’s flanks – drawing serious blood… The Leader then took on the Usurper directly in savage full-frontal close-quarter fighting.
After 25 minutes of wild fighting Usurper was cornered, his back to the gap, and saw that all was lost, haunches dripping with glistening blood …. as even juvenile males now moved to surround him – cutting off all escape – leaving him no option… but surrender… begging clemency from The Boss.
A conditional pardon was issued…
… and just as in human scrapes, the juveniles and little males then jumped to take their shots at the already-beaten Ursurper – showing the Boss just who they supported… (notably not supporting anyone until the real fight was decided)…
Throughout the 25 minutes, I kept moving to watch the wide-ranging fight, shifting positions on the ground – to find the open angles through the dense foliage – to watch what was progressing, as Bill kept his tight focus with his ultra-long lens – allowing me to be a spotter and ring-side announcer – as we moved Bill into just the right positions for him to take this sequence of truly marvelous fotos…
The fotos document just the last 3-5 minutes of the battle – orchestrated almost 50 feet overhead – in a dense tree-top canopy – that obscured what was happening to all the other viewers – who simply imagined that it was “howling time” or that maybe the Howlers were just pissed-off over a nearby troop of spider monkeys feeding on favored sapote fruits….
Many people living here in Yucatan go an entire lifetime without even seeing or hearing a single howler.
Yes: Howler monkeys were harmed during the filming of this event.
and … I watched very very carefully to see if #2 left the group after backing-down – and nope – he was still with them at last viewing – so, I doubt that he was an outsider – trying to join or trying to simply come in and take over… ???
The troop then spread out to feed on sapote for the next 30 minutes, and then lounge around, rest, and recover….
Here are a few of Bill Drennon’s exceptional fotos …
Note that these fotos are the personal property of William Drennon, fully copyrighted, and are NOT permitted for use without Mr. Drennon’s prior approval.
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YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan. ©Steven M. Fry – no copying permitted this time.
Text and Captions by ©Steven M. Fry and Fotos by ©William Drennon
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