Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Tafi Monkey Sanctuary

        While we were in Ho we were without any obligation so we headed north another couple of hours to what is called the Tafi Monkey Sanctuary. These are Mona monkeys. Apparently there are different varieties of Mona monkeys but here they consider these to be the true Mona monkeys. There are four tribes of the monkeys that live here, each with their own commander, who warns them of danger or the encroachment of another one of the tribes. We wandered back into the jungle as we located each tribe. Though they live in close proximity to one another they do not mingle.
        The history and the legends surrounding these monkeys is interesting. In the Book of Mormon the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, or Ammonites, haid laid down their weapons of war and had vowed to never take them up again. The tribes of people that now live in this area were also not warriors so legend has it that the monkeys preceded the people as they migrated and the monkeys were in charge of the safety of the people. They would go before and clear paths and fight battles with the other tribes. From that time these monkeys have been sacred to the people that live in this village.
        In the 1980's Christian missionaries arrived in this area and as they set up churches and converted the people to Christianity they taught the people that holding the monkeys sacred was against the doctrines of the church. The tribes now took the opportunity if the monkeys were no longer sacred to kill and use them for food. In 1990 a professor came, I forget from which university, to study the monkeys. He was able to convince the tribal leaders that the monkeys needed to be preserved. However, the only way to do that was to once again go against Christian teachings and tell the people that there was a taboo on the monkeys and that anyone killing one could have serious sufferings or even death. This is the basic story explained to us by our guide Vincent. You may believe what you like.
        The facts are that since 1995 the monkeys have bee protected and visiting there is a great experience and I am not even a lover of monkeys. The money brought in by visitors to the sanctuary has really helped this village. There are four tribes of monkeys each governed by a commander. Each commander makes a very specific throaty sound that resonates through his mouth making puffed out cheeks. He is considerably larger than the other monkeys and will not jump on you though I did try to get a picture of him as he came out of the tree and lunged for a banana.
        Over the years the people of the village had noticed that they never did see a dead monkey. So during the five years that they were studied it was found, as the researchers were able to get closer and closer to the monkeys, they they buried their dead. They appeared to be in such a state of mourning over their loss that they did not even notice the people watching them.
        This was a great opportunity. We bought bananas on the street and they were hidden in a black plastic bag. Vincent knew just how much to proportion out to each tribe. H would break the banana in half and then we would hold it in our hand very securely with your arm flexed tight. The monkeys would jump on you and climb down your arm and peel back the skin of the banana and eat it. It was so easy to tell the strength that they had, such power in those little bodies. What a creation. You had to have respect for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment