Monday, September 20, 2010

Monkey Baby Boom!

The Hindhede monkeys at Bukit Timah are in the midst of a baby boom!  Although macaques don't really have a breeding season- they breed year-round, having babies whenever they're able- they tend to have a peak during which they're especially prolific, and that's going on right now.  If you head to Bukit Timah in the next few weeks, you may get lucky and spot the Hindhede monkeys, toting around their eight adorable, pink-skinned, black-furred infants.

Sunny's one of the monkeys with her hands full with a new little one.  She's a first-time mommy, and so far she appears to be taking to the job quite well.  Like all the other new babies, hers is healthy, bright-eyed, and energetic..
A little protective....
There are differences in monkey parenting styles just like there are differences in how parents treat their children.  Some of the moms, especially the ones with their first baby, can be a little over-protective, following their infant everywhere, and tugging them back by the tail if they get too far away.  Other moms are laid-back, keeping an eye on their kids, but letting them do their own exploring.  A few of the moms even appear irresponsible at times, letting their babies wander out of eyesight when they're still too young to be off on their own, or failing to come to their rescue when they cry out for help.
Different kinds of moms
Some of the moms let their infants wander a little ways away to play with the older juveniles.  If the play gets too tough, the babies squeal and the moms usually come running to scold whoever got rough and tumble.  It can be dangerous for people to get too close to the infants, especially when they're wandering off on their own.  If those babies give a squeak, mommy might blame the nearest person for the baby's distress, and the person will get charged.  If the baby's protest is loud enough, the males might join in the charge- after all, they're protective too.
Wanna play?!
The highest-ranked female, Nad, also had a new baby recently.  Macaques are interesting because the females love babies, and they all want to hold them, groom them, and cuddle them.  For the privilege of touching another mom's baby, the other females will groom the mother.  In exchange, the mom will usually let the groomer handle the baby a little bit- some holding or grooming.  Sometimes females try to steal away another mom's baby without paying the price first- they make this strange little coughing sound, and grab at the baby, who sometimes gets caught in an awkward tug-of-war, yanked in one direction by each greedy female.  It's a little ridiculous to watch.
Nad looking queenly while being groomed by Catherine
Izzy, Bryan's favorite monkey, also recently became a first-time mother.  Her baby, Ivan, was born at the beginning of the baby boom, so he's a little older than the others.  You can see that he's already starting to grow out of his black natal coat- his shiny, fine black fur will soon be all gone and only the coarser brown fur will remain.  Ivan's curious and rambunctious, and he keeps Izzy busy.
Brave Baby Ivan
We hung out with the monkeys for quite awhile, and they seemed to be pretty mellow.  They didn't travel very far, and the juveniles spent the whole day romping around and playing.  At two separate points in the day, two different adult males, Luke and Achilles, successfully managed to steal ice cream cones from passersby.  (Seriously, people, have your kids finish their food BEFORE walking by the monkeys.  There's nothing scarier to a toddler than having a big, scary monkey run straight at you just to snatch your ice cream cone right out of your sticky little hand.  And screaming "Swiper, no swiping!" doesn't work).  Anyway, both monkeys looked pretty pleased as they expertly maneuvered the ice cream, holding it just like a person would.
Luke really prefers chocolate, but he'll take vanilla in a pinch...

Mmmm...Cornetto.  Not so good for Achilles' figure.
The juveniles seemed to be in high-gear play mode.  Sometimes the bigger monkeys play a little too rough with the younger ones, which leads to hilarious "HELP ME" faces like these pitiful ones here:

But mostly it was just good, clean monkey fun. clean as you can get in a storm drain.

Even Achilles got in on the fun.  He was just wrestling, even though  it looks like attempted murder. And no, he isn't secretly a vampire.

We managed to tear ourselves away from the monkeys long enough to go on a hike around Bukit Timah.  The other wildlife wasn't really out in force, but we did see a few clouded monitors sunning themselves along the path, and I spotted this sweet little baby monitor foraging around deep in the weeds.  I ensconced myself in a shrub and acquired a preposterous number of mosquito bites to get a closer look and a photo.

We wandered out to Rifle Range Rd where I got a special bonus for the day- abandoned buildings!  And with bars, no less!  Creepy, eh?

If you get as excited about abandoned buildings as I do, don't forget to go see Haunted Changi while it's still out in theaters!

After our hike, we headed out of the reserve to go get some dinner, and we ran into the monkeys again, still lounging around the same spot they'd been in all afternoon.  Bryan got some more photography practice in, and I watched the babies romping around, testing their shaky new limbs.  While I was engrossed in baby-watching, a juvenile sidled up next to me and started grooming my arm.  What a sweetheart!
Feel free to admire his awesome Ranger Rick hat
Monkey Love
To our surprise, the wildlife encounters didn't end at Bukit Timah.  Back in our neighborhood, Jurong East, we spotted a caterpillar invasion!!  These fat, black caterpillars are all over the undersides of the leaves on the plants lining the roads in our area.  The leaves of the plants have been chewed to shreds by the hungry caterpillars.  Under some of the leaves were little cocoons, which looked awfully tiny to be sheltering such fat creatures.  I'm not sure if they were for the same type of caterpillar, or maybe for a smaller variety?  Either way, Jurong East should soon be inundated with butterflies.  I can't wait!

What a good day for nature!


  1. So cute!!!... still not sure if I can trust them though ;)

  2. They're usually well-behaved, I swear! long as there's no food involved...and as long as you stay away from their babies...and don't look them in the eyes or make any sudden movements.

  3. awwwww :D

    Here are two of the videos I took when we were there:

  4. Hi there, my 20 month old boy likes monkeys, and he often says "a-a" and walk to the door (which translates to : i want to go out and see monkeys).

    we tried to go to the bukit timah nature reserve park on sunday afternoon, but couldnt find any monkeys (i heard from a friend that there're tonnes of monkeys there).

    we drove around hindhede road too, but didn't see any.

    if you don't mind me asking ---
    did we just come at a bad time?
    what time should we go? is it safe for my son to be around the monkeys?

    i'm trying to not go to the zoo that often. :)

    thanks much

  5. Hi Sheren!

    The monkeys are most frequently out at the Visitor Center and along Hindhede Rd in the mornings and late afternoons/evenings. At other times, they're lots of places- along the main path leading up the hill, along the bike path, and in Hindhede Nature Park to name a few. So, you probably just missed them.

    It's generally safe for your son to be around the monkeys as long as you remember that they're wild animals- don't bring food anywhere near them, don't look them directly in the eyes, and don't get too close to them, especially their babies. They can get aggressive if you do any of those things. But if you exercise some caution, your son will probably love watching them- they're so fun!

  6. hi Crystal,
    thank you so much for the information.
    cant believe we missed them! we stayed there till about 6 pm and didn't see any monkeys on sunday.
    so we went to the zoo yesterday because he was still asking for 'a-a' :)
    thanks for the tips..we'll try again next time :)

  7. No problem : ) I'm sure your son was more than happy with going to the zoo!! I hope you catch the monkeys next time you're at Bukit Timah.

  8. hi Crystal.. yes, he loves going to the zoo!
    he doesn't let me hold his hand, he just wants to roam around by himself over there. (he feels at home i suppose? haha)

    yes yes..hopefully we can see the monkeys next time. i've been browsing through your blog and they're so adorable :)