September 16, 2012

Hello, Lesula!

RedOrbit.com reported on a new species of African monkey called the lesula. The lesula originally had been discovered in 2007 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by scientists who then confirmed the new species and recorded its habits, characteristics, ecology, and range. It was further reported that the lesula is only the second African monkey discovery in 28 years. When I read this article online, I could not help but smile. I just love monkeys. I love everything they do, how they act, and what they mean to science and nature. They are cute and lovable, but also a bit obstinate.  They will love up on humans just as soon as throw their own feces. They are willing to learn and be taught while also stubbornly doing only what they want. And they’re creative. I mean, really creative.

When I was in Costa Rica last year, I watched a white-headed capuchin steal an entire loaf of bread away from a picnicker on the beach. The little monkey snuck up as quietly as it could, and as quickly, and waited for the man to turn his head. In an instant the capuchin simultaneously grabbed the bag of bread and began running away from the picnic. Before I knew it, the white-faced bandit was up in the canopy where none could find him nor the bread. From afar, the entire incident looked like the monkey had a strategy, a military operation, in order to acquire the food. I was amazed at the capuchin’s innovation and drive.

Not everyone would see the creativity in that white-faced capuchin’s theft. Many consider monkeys the same as rodents—filthy, little beasts who plague their environments with nuisance and disease. But I think they are just misunderstood like so much of the animal world. I mean, humans encroach on their territory, steal their trees, overtake their land, and abuse them, yet we are surprised when animal encounters are less than pleasant. Monkeys are losing their ecology to any number of disasters—natural and unnatural—and simply are fighting for their lives. They are hungry, so they steal food. They feel threatened, so they screech or attack. They need attention, so they throw feces. More often than not, humans take away their food, grow hostile and aggressive, or simply ignore the monkeys. We contribute to the cause of their behavior, but rarely do we even acknowledge our role.

Instead, we forget the monkey’s important role to the world. Primates are much like humans. They feel, and love, and connect. They care for one another, and they struggle to survive. They have communities. And though humans did not evolve from monkeys, science shows that somewhere down the line we are not that far from one another. Evolution theory states that humans share an evolutionary ancestor with apes, but only a branch or so over are monkeys. We can see in their little faces that monkeys, like apes, have human characteristics. This is definitely true for the aforementioned lesula. One look into the picture, and we see more than just an animal. We do not see rodents, nor canine, nor do we see feline. We see monkey.

Perhaps this new monkey species proves that humans do not know all there is to know about the scientific and natural world. If in 2012 we are still discovering new animal species, perhaps science has more to offer and perhaps the natural world has more hidden treasures for us. So, I must say, bully for a new monkey species!

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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