Sara Morris Swetcharnik

White-faced Capuchin Monkey

By Sara Morris Swetcharnik

The male white-faced capuchin monkey is very good at escaping. While he is out he usually stays atop the cage, the self-appointed sentinel of the ladies still in captivity. To anyone who dares approach, he rushes howling and baring his sharp teeth. Because of the little capuchin's aggressiveness, the former zookeeper used to carry a stick, and would occasionally give the fellow a whack.

I decide to avoid the capuchin. I set up to work on a sculpture of the grizzly bear. It is a warm day. I pull my hair back into a ponytail and start to sculpt. I feel a tug on my hair. Turning around quickly, I see the branch behind me sway as the monkey clambers back up.

He must be bored. It is a weekday. Other than the zoo staff, I am the only person in the compound. A nuisance, I decide, but harmless enough.

A few days later, on a Sunday afternoon, the zoo is packed with visitors. They have taken the bus up from the hot city, bearing coolers and picnic baskets. Smoke wafts through the zoo: partly from barbecues, partly from nearby forest fires. Three soldiers are patrolling the wooded park for arsonists. As the patrol approaches the capuchin monkey mounts the cage, snarling. Amused, the soldiers poke their guns at him. The monkey, enraged by the threatening sticks, rushes at the men; and as they back away, he pursues them furiously. The onlookers laugh and hoot as the soldiers flee into the woods chased by the tiny monkey.