This cute Capuchin monkey is named Rumor.
As the above card states, Rumor invented a really fun game: grab the finger of your best friend and stick it deep inside your eye-sockets for thirty minutes or so, and then do it again tomorrow!
This card is a party favor from the 25th anniversary celebration of the UCLA Capuchin Monkey project, an evening full of power, envy, lust and greed, traditions, trust and treason (just as advertised!).
It took a few years for Rumor’s game to catch on. Strange, I know, you’re thinking that this game would catch on immediately in your group of friends. But, the point is, what if Dr. Perry and her team had showed up to study these monkeys for only two years? A smaller snapshot in time would have provided misleading information about this social tradition. They might have thought these monkeys had always jammed their fingers deep into each other’s eyes and missed that it was the invention of a single individual. They could have missed that this tradition took a few years to catch on and misunderstood how the tradition continued after Rumor’s death. And that’s just one example.
Given the nature of the celebration, the underlying theme to the evening was the importance of long-term studies. The panel discussion at the end of the evening highlighted the unfortunate fact that long-term research is the exception rather than the rule. There are clear reasons for this, perhaps most of all the difficulty of maintaining studies that exceed the length of time for funding cycles, and maintaining a functional family life. Dr. Wright, who spoke about her work with lemurs later in the evening, also shared her difficulties in maintaining her long-term research while confronting political issues in foreign countries.
Congratulations to anthropologist Susan Perry, for her incredible long-term work on Capuchin Monkeys. By the end of her presentation she revealed that her research has featured 567 monkeys and 151 researchers!
I applaud Dr. Perry for her presentation as well, though that she is a good speaker perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise: she studies primates and clearly knows how to engage a room full of them. She traced the evolution of her 25-year project one year at a time and by presenting each year’s shocking new discoveries as newspaper headlines. For example, she disclosed the drama from year 7 with the headline: “Ichabod assassinated: a killing one of their own!”, then the drama of year 10 with an equally shocking headline about infanticide. All in all, interesting night. Thanks also to Dr. John Mitani and Dr. Patricia Wright who spoke following Dr. Perry’s talk to present their work on chimpanzees and lemurs.