A rare encounter – Muriqui at REGUA on the Waterfall Trail

Muriqui or Southern Woolly Spider Monkey <em>Brachyteles arachnoides</em> at REGUA (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Muriqui or Southern Woolly Spider Monkey Brachyteles arachnoides at REGUA (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The Muriqui, or Southern Woolly Spider Monkey Brachyteles arachnoides, is never an easy animal to see. It is the rarest primate in South America and endemic to the Atlantic Rainforest. These long faun coloured monkeys with delicate facial patterns are not aggressive but quiet and reclusive. With indiscriminate hunting and the loss of its habitat the Muriqui population crashed and the Guinness book of records for 1988 showed it to be the rarest primate in the wild with only 200 specimens alive. Fortunately REGUA has a small resident population in its medium altitudinal forests and every three or four months the group is seen generally with young by a ranger or a guest. The rangers have been instrumental in reducing hunting pressure and as result Adilei took some days off his guiding in determined pursuit to photograph this rare creature. On his third walk, just at the researcher’s cabin on the Waterfal (Green) Trail at 650m above sea level in pristine forest he heard some fruit falling and a gentle call. Stealthily he approached a large tree and spied a female feasting on some fruit. She had seen Adilei but she didn’t consider him a threat and continued to eat and lazily stretched herself to lie down and doze as is often their midday habit. Adilei wanted a slightly better image and after a while cautiously approached. She woke and took off merging into the canopy of the forest and was gone. Adilei was delighted with the images of this rare encounter.