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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Nature to Nurture: Tikal National Park - Page 3

Written by Grace Zhang
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As we trekked toward the Grand Plaza in the center of the park, Milton pointed out other noteworthy flora: the Mahogany tree, the incense-producing Copal tree, and the multi-purpose All Spice tree, its unripe berries used to produce allspice and its fresh leaves chewed for an oral anesthetic. Seeing the sources of relatively commonplace materials, I realized we live in a different world back in the States where allspice comes from a little jar bought from the grocery store and potent sticks of incense resembles strands of dried spaghetti.

Meanwhile, we could not escape the recurring howls that echoed through the forest, a haunting soundtrack to our otherwise hushed hike. The howler monkeys were aptly named; there was no other way to describe the repetitive, guttural bass tones that resonated from their medium-dog-sized bodies. As suddenly as their cries would interrupt the forest’s silence, we came upon a small troupe lingering in the canopy. Their ebony-black bodies sucked up the sieved sunlight, black holes visible despite being backlit. They howled to each other, to the trees, to the sky. A male, noticeably larger than his companions, nimbly clambered hand-over-foot up a tree trunk, shepherd’s-hook-curled long tail trailing behind him. Another member of the troupe adroitly leapt from one slender tree limb to another, swooshing the leaves to a loud rustle, adding another note to their whooping cacophony.

Trying to keep the monkeys in sight as long as we could, we gaped toward the sky, ducking and craning, cautiously stepping. Another three visitors quietly sneaked behind us, also trying to catch a glimpse of the monkeys and share a wondrous, rare moment.

Howler Monkey 1

As the monkeys traversed across the branches out of sight but not out of earshot, we continued down the trail. Then, a light rain began to fall. The monkeys were right about the weather after all.

©Grace Zhang

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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