The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Udzungwa Red Colobus - Issue Forty
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The Lar Gibbon  from Christiano Artuso The Udzungwa Red Colobus are found exclusively in the Udzungwa Mountains in central Tanzania, east Africa. This monkey is just one of many species endemic to the isolated mountain range, which is covered by a rich tropical rainforest, rivers, and bordering grasslands. Leaves are the most important part of their diet, anything from 70% and 90% of their diet. Their remaining diet is filled out by fruits and flowers. Although many of the plants they eat are highly toxic, containing chemicals such as cyanide, these monkeys have physically adapted to this by developing larger salivary glands and a larger, sacculated stomach. Mothers have also been observed teaching their offspring to eat soil, which helps neutralize the toxins. Their most distinctive feature is the red cap on their heads. The rest of the monkey's body is often white on the ventral side and black on the dorsal side. Their faces are covered by mostly black skin and patches of pink scattered on the muzzle. They lack true thumbs. There is only a small nub where their thumb would be. The name colobus comes from the Greek word meaning "cut short" or "maimed," in reference to their lack of a thumb. They make up for this with their four hook-like fingers. This hand structure actually makes it easier for them to quickly leap from branch to branch. Their long tails are non-prehensile and are used primarily to maintain balance when walking across branches. They are the most arboreal of all African primates, only leaving the comfort of the trees when it is absolutely necessary. Like most primates, they are diurnal. They average about 61 cm tall and weighs about 11 kg. Their tail lengths generally match the individual's height. Males are slightly larger than females. Their lifespan is unknown, although their closest relatives have lifespans ranging between 20 and 30 years old. They live in groups of 20 to 40 individuals. Some groups number as high as 81 while other monkeys wander alone. The monkey troop wakes up around sunrise and forages during the early morning. They rest for most of the day and spend much of their down time grooming each other and building social bonds. They forage again in the evening before retiring for the night. They often sleep in the same trees where they were feeding that day, preferring to stay in the tallest trees they can find. The males tend to stay in their natal group for life and develop strong social bonds with one another. They will only usually leave to form a group of their own. Females in the main group often form smaller associations and will move from group to group several times in their lives. They are often suspicious of newcomers. Before joining a new group, a lone monkey may spend several months following and spying on the target group to see if they will accept him. They are fiercely territorial and they often engage in violent battles with neighboring troops. Most of this fighting is left to the males, who also fight within their own troop to rise up the dominance hierarchy. When a predator is nearby, the males will gather together to defend the group while the females, infants, and juveniles escape to safety. They make several vocalizations, but researchers have not yet deciphered their meanings. When these colobuses see a human, adults and juveniles make a "chist" call. Other calls include barks, yelps, squeals, shrieks, and quavers. They mate year-round although more frequently between March and June. Males compete with each other for mating opportunities, but no male holds exclusive mating rights. When a female enters estrus, her anogenital region swells up. After mating, the female has a pregnancy that lasts about six months. Because females move between groups several times in their life, most females in a group are unrelated to each other. Scientists speculate that this is why red colobus mothers do not generally practice allomothering, where all females work together to raise their offspring. Instead, mothers are highly protective of their young from all males and females in the group. On average, females give birth to a new offspring every three years. Females reach sexual maturity at two years of age. At that point, they may go off on their own to find a new group, or they may stay close to their mother and aunts and leave only when they do. Males reach sexual maturity some time between 3 and 4 years old. They are sympatric with several species of primates and have often been seen forming short-term groups with other species. They have formed friendly relationships with yellow baboons, Sanje mangabeys, and Angola colobuses. Such inter-specific associations provide extra protections against predators. The International Union for Conservation of Nature rates them as Vulnerable (IUCN, 2016), stating that the biggest threat to the species is habitat destruction, which has severely fragmented the population. Habitats are destroyed for the sake of logging, charcoal production, and agriculture. Over 90% of them live in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, which is well protected; however, the remaining individuals live in forests that are either not protected or their protections are not well-enforced. Conservation groups are looking to expand the park to cover adjacent forests that are poorly protected. Another strategy attempts to tackle forest fragmentation by planting and establishing forest corridors to connect isolated patches of forest. This not only requires the planting of new trees but also prevention of bush fires, which often prevent forests from recovering.


The Parable of B.D. Mannheim


J. Paul Ross

Before B.D. Mannheim became famous, he was my friend. Before he got an entourage and cheers greeted him everywhere he went, before his breakout role as Dill the Pizza Delivery Guy in Ramit Von Wellenfrau's seminal masterpiece, Dill Dos in Des Moines, he was simply the neighbor who'd drink my wine coolers and hit on my dates.

We called him B-Doug in those days and he was just another struggling actor. His first AVN Award was more than a decade off and the idea of leaving Jersey for the San Fernando Valley wasn't even a dream yet. He was a cologne spritzer at Woolworth's, he bartended at Applebee's and, whenever he wasn't working, he was either going to an audition or preparing for one. It didn't matter what the part was, if it meant he'd be near a spotlight, he'd do anything to get it.

In many ways, I suppose he was destined to be famous. At six-one with blue eyes, he was handsome and charming and gifted with the unflappable confidence that only a true celebrity can have. Add to this the fact that he was driven to be something more than your average schmo from Ridgewood and it's easy to see why he ended up where he did. Even back in '96, his quest for notoriety was the only thing that really mattered to him. And sitting on my couch at four in the morning, he'd wipe the sweet, ambrosial alcopop from his lips and swear that all it would take was a hundred squats a day, belief in his talent and most importantly, a routine.

The routine was everything to him and a perfect example of this was when he tried out for the part of a reporter in Ibsen's, An Enemy of the People: the Musical. It was a minor role at a local public theater and with only a week to rehearse, B-Doug knew his prep would have to be short and intense.

He began by simply watching the evening news, rushing off at 6:30 to mimic the anchorperson's nod, frown along with the foreign correspondent and grin when the last feel-good story appeared at exactly 6:57. He did this every night and after just two days, he'd almost perfected the skills he needed to portray a reporter; he'd developed a non-regional American accent, his sentences were short and clipped, and he'd wink for no reason like he knew something you didn't. From there, he went on to learn the tricks for making any question seem insightful and by the third day, he'd even pulled a cheek muscle working on the all-knowing expression he called his "Smirk of Confidence."

It was amazing to watch and when he was doing his man on the street interviews, you couldn't believe he wasn't a real reporter. Everything was coming together for him. His goal was clear, his daily, if not hourly, routine was set and he was confident that the stars had aligned and the apple of fame was within his grasp.

And then, right after he'd learned how to question the rich and powerful without insulting them, disaster struck. For it seemed that fate had chosen that moment to short out his neighbor's hearing aids and as B-Doug worked on raising one eyebrow at a time, the clamoring tones of an ancient Sony Trinitron began to fill his apartment.

Now, usually this wouldn't have bothered B-Doug but, with the volume climbing to an unavoidable blare, he started to recognize the telltale patter of a newscast. Except it wasn't like any news program that he'd ever heard. The fear-inducing headlines of minorities robbing people, carjacking people or murdering people were conspicuously absent. There was nothing about balloon races or celebrity divorces or trials of lost pets finding their way home after months on the road. There were no sports scores, and to make matters worse, he couldn't recall a single account of good Americans doing good American deeds for the good of their fellow Americans.

No, the dramas coming through his walls were tales that played like an Academy Award winning documentary: tedious and long and painful to sit through. They had context and history, and while his newscasters giggled at bear cubs frolicking in swimming pools, his neighbor's TV would go on and on about poverty and inequality. Reports of fixed elections and political corruption filled his living room and while he tried to watch a three-part exposť on ticket scalpers at the Meadowlands, his bong collection vibrated to a seemingly endless barrage of innocent people facing injustice and racism.

In the four days he'd been paying attention, he'd never heard anything like it. At first, he thought they were from another actor trying to sabotage his prep. He then figured that the person living next to him was secretly a documentary screener for AMPAS. And finally, he came to believe it was a test from the acting gods, an obstacle he had to defeat in order to earn the adulation he craved.

For my part, I suggested talking to his neighbor but B-Doug assured me that talking to people and asking questions had nothing to do with being a well-coifed broadcaster. He said no one possessing a smirk of confidence would ever do anything like that because in the world of news, finding the right hypoallergenic styling mousse and organic bronzer was more important.

So despite the horrors that were brutalizing his ears, he continued to hone his journalistic skills. He gazed emotionlessly into crates of frolicking puppies to master his detached look of amusement, posed on street corners while we photobombed his imaginary live shots and he practiced his ever vigilant, square-shouldered "microphone stance" until his biceps quivered.

He then rehearsed his speech for the Tony Awards and began making up interesting anecdotes for the Tonight Show. But he still couldn't shake those tales of misery coming through the walls and he soon found his dreams of free swag and the red carpet in jeopardy. For as the audition drew closer, reports of lies and mushroom clouds and pointless, unjustifiable wars started to upset his all-important routine.

He did everything to shut them out but nothing worked. Earplugs proved useless. He tried loud music but always ended up in an imaginary threesome with Shania Twain and David Hasselhoff, and not even long, late night talks with my girlfriend could help. He grew depressed, then panicked and finally desperate. He could imagine disaster at every tale that made its way into his apartment: he'd never get to wear sunglasses in dark rooms or complain about the paparazzi and his "Smirk of Confidence" would be forever hidden from adoring fans.

Something drastic had to be done and fortunately, when the day of the audition came, the gods of acting truly stepped in. Stanislavski whispered, Lovelace grunted and the perfect solution came to B-Doug. And in a moment of divine inspiration, he went to his kitchen, rubbed a piece of steel wool over an electrical socket and blew the main breaker for the entire building.

He was now free to focus on the mindset of a stalwart reporter, free to carry out the final step of his routine. So he buffed his nails, applied his grapefruit and shea butter moisturizer and went to work. Because if he'd learned one thing from his prep, it was that the echoes of tragedy shouldn't keep one from masturbating and the quest for fame should never, ever be hindered by the quest for truth.

J. Paul Ross is a graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver and a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. His fiction has appeared in numerous online and in print magazines and journals including, The Antioch Review, Big City Lit, Border Crossing and La Revista Literaria Centroamericana. Currently, he is working on a novel set along the Pan-American Highway.
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