August 15, 2020
Mother’s Day in Costa Rica is a national holiday and is normally celebrated every year on August 15th. This year in order to boost national tourism, the government has moved the official holiday to Monday, August 17th so that locals, along with international visitors, can enjoy a long weekend to celebrate. Costa Rica is a strong matriarchal society and this holiday weekend will be spent like so many others; Either by sharing a big family meal at home with some of Costa Rica’s most authentic dishes, by taking Mom out to eat for her favorite food, or perhaps by taking a trip to the beach! The latter is certainly a favorite among both urbanites and those who live on the coast, and no doubt after being in lock-down for several months, everyone is enjoying getaways to the beach to soak up the rays of sunshine and the feeling of wet sand on their feet. In addition to relaxing strolls on the beach, many families will take adventurous hikes through the rain forest in search of the exotic wildlife Costa Rica offers so abundantly. So, in anticipation of Costa Rican Mother’s Day, we wanted to honor several of the animal species special to us here in Manuel Antonio. Of course, there are many, but chose four of our favorite mammals, and started with the revered sloth. After all, Villa Perezoso, or “The Sloth Villa” was named after these beloved animals! And no less special to us are the 3 species of monkeys commonly seen in the trees surrounding Villa Perezoso.
Just like the other baby mammals, sloths prefer to stay with their mothers while they are young. There is a very close bond between mothers and babies, and baby sloths love to hang on their mother’s fur. Baby sloths will cling to their mother’s belly until they are able to feed themselves, which can take anywhere from five weeks to six months. Once they have learned to feed themselves and they stop dangling from their mother, little sloths will continue to stay alongside their mother for two to four years, depending on their species. These amazing creatures have a life span of about 20 years and spend most of their life sleeping! Sloths have a very low metabolic rate and therefore sleep about 20 hours per day and only travel about 40 yards per day amid the rain forest canopy. Since they don’t move much, it is always a very exciting sight to spot a sloth with her baby in the Manuel Antonio National Park. Baby and momma sloths can often be seen right outside of Villa Perezoso enjoying some bites off of one of their favorite trees, the Guarumo tree, which are planted all around the villa.
Mother howler monkeys care for their young for about 12 months after they are born. Female offspring remain in their natal group and therefore stay with their mother long after they are independent. The average age of howler monkeys ranges from between 15 and 20 years old. These fascinating creatures are considered the largest Central American monkey, and they live in the upper canopy of forests and love to be alongside the coast, making Costa Rica an ideal location for them. Howler monkeys are not especially active compared to other species of Central and South American monkeys. They spend a lot of their time just hanging out, sitting on their branches with other members of their group, which range in size between 10 and 20 members, but can occasionally have up to 40. While visiting Villa Perezoso, you will surely hear the deep guttural sound of these monkeys echoing amidst the surrounding rainforest! This howling allows the monkeys to locate each other without expending too much energy on moving or risking physical confrontation with another troop. You may even lucky enough to spot a momma howler with her baby!
Female squirrel monkeys are responsible for almost all infant care. Females within a group exhibit birth synchrony and increased vigilance during the birth season because newborns and infants are particularly susceptible to predators. In some groups, males also vigorously protect infants from predators, but in other groups, where males are on the periphery of the social group, they exhibit no infant protection. For the first month of life, infants remain in constant physical contact with their mother, usually being carried on her back because they are too large and impede movement if they are carried on the front. This is a common sight in Manuel Antonio where squirrel monkeys live happily amid the rain forest. During the first five to seven weeks, infants begin to leave their mother to explore the surrounding environment and interactions between mother and infant become increasingly fewer. Infants become independent during the second through fourth months of life, spending more time with peers or play groups. Some groups are fully weaned by four months, but others are not fully weaned until 18 months of age. It’s always a fantastic site to see these monkeys troupes with their active youngsters jumping from tree to tree!
Last but not least, comes The White-Faced or “capuchin” monkey. This monkey is often seen in Manuel Antonio and is known for being “ornery” because it often throws fruits down from trees or hisses and spits on human observers! The capuchin lives in troops that can exceed 20 animals and include both males and females, three quarters of which are females. The White-Faced are perceived as cantankerous, but actually they are just highly intelligent and social animals. They are the largest-brained, smartest monkeys in the Americas. Capuchins are remarkable in many ways, but in the field of motherhood and child care, they stand out. For starters, they implement a type of “daycare” system among group members. After a capuchin infant is born, members will compete to have a turn with the baby. They will inspect and care for the baby whenever the mother will permit. Other group members will even act as “babysitters” and carry the infant for the mother. Secondly, babies are known to be regularly nursed by females in the group other than their own mothers. Finally, the White-Faced monkey is extremely tolerant of juvenile curiosity and encourages their playfulness and interaction with other members as they get older. Certainly an interesting comparison for human parents! Aside from the interesting facts of parenthood, the White-Faced Monkey is revered for having independently evolved many traits like tool use that were once regarded as uniquely human, including rubbing plants over its body in an apparent use of herbal medicines as well as using tools as weapons and for getting to food.
These are just a few of our favorite mammals that call home to the surrounding forest around Villa Perezoso. Of course there is so much more wildlife surrounding the villa and in Manuel Antonio. Toucans, Scarlet Macaws and other reptiles abound as do so many other jungle animals. If you would like to experience some of these animals in person, contact us for information on reserving a visit to Villa Perezoso!