The life of wild animals is always tough and inevitably there will be some casualties in the great struggle to survive but no matter how much you anticipate this will happen its always sad when an animal disappears. This is what happened recently in the Green Group where sadly Neo has not been seen for a number of weeks now. She had seemed rather unwell, coughing a great deal and often spending time alone or falling behind when the group was travelling. A few times before her final disappearance she had not been with the group for a day or so but had come back again albeit coughing and wheezing.
Neo was a popular monkey among the research teams with her puffy head and seemingly insatiable appetite to groom. She would often approach other monkeys and just begin to groom immediately and it always looked as if she was happy just to be busy grooming, never with a hidden agenda or plan for reciprocation. On one occasion we watched her approach Karl, one of the young juveniles who was fast asleep, and just start to groom him. I think it was a good 10 mins or so before he woke up and realised the pleasant surprise of a free groom.
Neo always seemed to be a bit of a thinker or maybe was rather simple, sometimes the line can be fine but often we would see her sitting on a rock or a tree stump staring for long periods into the middle distance. Obviously it would never be possible to understand what she was thinking, if at all, but if monkeys can daydream or space-out then Neo would have been the master.
She was a low ranking monkey and often the recipient of aggression from other group females determined to keep her in her place and also show they were still deserving of their higher place in the order. One poor female who was below Neo was poor Rebecca the lowest ranking adult female and she would be the unlucky one who often had to endure the re-direction of aggression from Neo so the heat was taken off her.
As with any social group when one member goes the level of impact felt by those still in the group can differ, maybe Rebecca’s life has become a little more relaxing and peaceful and she has to look over her shoulder a little less. But for others the impact could be felt much more such as Helen who over the last few months had been receiving nigh on daily grooming from Neo and i am sure will now be missing this social bond.
It seems as if Neo was the oldest female in the Green Group as far as we could ascertain and over the 2 years we have been with the group we have twice seen her lose her infant, which is never a pleasant experience. I guess one blessing this year is that Neo was the only female not to give birth and therefore when she passed she did not leave a 5 month old infant to fend for itself.
Neo was a great character and i am sure all the researchers have their own fondest memories of their time with her in the group. It’s disappointing that we have to share the bad times with the monkeys but as i said before its all par for the course and you just have to roll with the punches.