ConMonoMaya, A.C. at Los Arboles Report

ConMonoMaya, A.C. at Los Arboles Report

2019 was a year full of monkey research in Los Arboles Tulum and we would like to share some of the highlights with you and thank you for all your support this past year. On top of that we wanted to wish you all a very prosperous 2020 and give some insights into where the monkey research will be heading this new year.

The 2019 monkey team:

In 2019 you will have seen many faces of the “monkey team” pass through Los Arboles Tulum and our research and conservation work could not have been possible without their hard work, passion and dedication. We were sad to say goodbye to Cecilia Cahum Cahum after two and a half years of following monkeys around the LAT forests. Romina Maria Yitani Medina joined the team in August 2019 and has spearheaded the recognition of the LAT monkeys. She currently recognizes a total of 30 spider monkey individuals. That’s a lot of monkey faces to remember!!! Another integral member of our team has been Coral Eloisa Rangel Rivera who not only flies drones over the forest to understand more about the trees and monkeys inhabiting LAT, but participated in studies of their behavior. 

We were also visited by researchers and students from a wide range of different institutions last year. In March we welcomed bachelor student Amairany Quintero Sánchez and Dr. Leonel López Toledo of the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo, based in Morelia, Mexico. Spider monkeys play a vital role in regenerating the forest as they transport the seeds of the fruits they eat over large distances. On top of that the seeds that pass through the spider monkey gut tend to germinate better. They are therefore essentially gardeners of the forest! Amairany’s thesis looks at how germination might be affected by climate change and we are very excited to see where her research leads this coming year. 

From May to July 2019 Master’s student Nicki Guisneuf (Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom) came to study the nocturnal lives of the spider monkeys living in LAT. She has since successfully obtained her master’s degree and we are extremely proud. A big part of her project was understanding whether the vocalizations you may sometimes hear the spider monkeys make during the night are different than the ones they make during the day. This part of her research would have been impossible without the help of Dr. Margarita Briseño Jaramillo (Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Mexico), an expert in bioacoustics and animal behavior. 

Lastly, this past December LAT hosted the “Third Drone Workshop to Survey Spider Monkeys.” Dr. Tony Di Fiore from the University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Gabriel Ramos Fernández from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (two of the world’s leading spider monkey experts!!!) joined us for a few days of research collaborations and drone training. We look forward to continuing the drone research at LAT this year, studying not only the monkeys but also the trees.


Talking about trees, we cannot thank Greenwood’s team member Avelino enough. Avelino assisted on several different projects this past year as an expert botanist. His knowledge of the local flora is incredible. One of the projects he was involved in focused on understanding why the spider monkeys avoid a certain area within Los Arboles Tulum. Remember those lots we pointed out during last February’s monkey night where we have never seen or followed monkeys in. Well, another year’s research has continued to show the same thing. The monkeys are not using those lots.

Could it be a barrier between the two spider monkey groups? Or could it be because there is no food available for the monkeys in this area?

In order to answer the latter, we needed to measure and identify trees both within this area and the areas around it (where we have seen monkeys). Avelino was instrumental in helping with the identification of the different tree species. We are currently analyzing all the measurements and hope to share some of the first results within the coming months.

And while we are on the topic of trees, we were very excited to have been approached by resident and owner Hawthorn this past December. Hawthorn is overseeing the planning and build of a new house in LAT and wants to do so in the most monkey friendly way possible. We shared information on all the locations where we have spotted and followed monkeys within the lot over the past three years. In addition, Romina, Avelino and Michael Moore went out to measure and locate all large trees which are important for the spider monkeys within this lot. We were extremely glad by this initiative and hope to continue to collaborate with any owner who plans on building in the future in a similar way! 

Sharing our research:

Do you remember the documentary made by Molly Ferrill and Luis Palomino titled “Flying with Spider Monkeys” that was mostly filmed at LAT and that we showed you before it was shown anywhere else during last February’s monkey night? Well, it was selected this past September to be part of Freeland Film Festival, Wisconsin. But the good news does not stop there! The film has also been selected for the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City (to be shown in October 2020)! So, don’t miss out if you are in NYC this coming fall.

2019 was also the year that the first scientific article about LAT was published. In April, we published a scientific article about the use of drones and thermal cameras to count spider monkeys in the journal Drones. This would not have been possible without your continued support! More will follow soon we are sure!

2020 – where are we headed? 

So, what research do we have in store for this coming year? We will be continuing following the spider monkeys with the help of Romina, learning more about their behavior. Long-term studies of behavior provide so much wealth of information, so we are excited to be entering the 4th year at LAT! On top of that, Coral will be in LAT to explore ways to estimate tree size and when they fruit and flower using drones. We will also be analyzing a lot of the information that has been collected over the past three years and look forward to sharing the results with you as they come in.

There is a lot to be learnt about the amazing flora and fauna of LAT!

Overall, we wanted to say thank you. Working in Los Arboles Tulum is a huge pleasure, but it would not be possible without your support and encouragement. We look forward to a 2020 filled with new research projects and lots of monkey sightings!!!

Denise, Filippo and the ConMonoMaya team.

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