By Matt Banes
It’s 4:45 AM, the metal roof is clanking as the offshore winds whip across the local mountains and down through the Nosara beaches. A few roosters and dogs are chiming in and, to add to this jungle symphony, the Howler Monkeys are sounding off with their deep bellows. If you are smiling right now you know this sweet music and love it. But why do the Howlers sound off so loudly and what are they trying to say so early in the morning—and in the evening too? If you ask Brenda Bombard, the founder of Nosara Refuge for Wildlife in Playa Guiones and Howler Monkey activist, her answers about the habits of Howlers will captivate you—and send you off with a newfound love for these tree dwellers that are part of the natural soundtrack in Guanacaste.
“The Howlers are most active in the mornings and evenings. This is when they move through the jungle to find food and shelter, and because they are territorial the adults howl and bellow to let other troop leaders know where they are. In all reality they are simply communicating to avoid confrontation and competition,” says Brenda as she patiently feeds a recently rescued baby Howler.
So now that we know what’s behind our morning and evening “monkey music” what other Howler Monkey facts are interesting and important to know?
Top Howler Monkey Facts
1. According to The Guinness Book of World Records the howl of an adult Howler Monkey can be heard clearly for 4.8 kilometers (3 miles).
2. There are typically anywhere from 3 to 20 Howlers in a single troop, with no more than 3 males and the rest female.
3. Howlers are 98% vegetarian and their favorite food is ripe Mango. They can smell fruits and leaves from up to 2 kilometers away.
4. Howler Monkeys do not eat bananas—in fact bananas and dairy products can cause sickness and death for infants.
5. Howler Monkeys see in trichromatic color—this means they see in color but the image is pixelated.
6. The Howler Monkey tail is so strong that it can support the entire body weight of an adult monkey. The tail also has a “pad” for gripping branches, food and just hanging around.
7. Only 30% of baby howler monkeys survive in nature. Mortality is caused by predators, sickness and accidents—some are avoidable like electrocution on power lines.
8. THE MOST IMPORTANT FACT—85% of monkeys rescued and cared for at the Nosara Refuge for Wildlife are successfully released back into the wild—and we are 100% supported by donations from the community and visitors.
So the next time you hear a howl, grunt or bellow at dusk or dawn, or you see a troop of Howlers chilling out in a tree… think about what’s behind the music. Visit www.refugeforwildlife.org.