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.


Trump, PI and the Case of the Masamune Sword (and Golf)


R.D. Ronstad

As I sat at my desk one Sunday afternoon, flipping through a Home Depot catalog, trying to find a shower head with enough force to do justice to my luxuriant hair, she appeared in the open doorway. Tall, sultry, blonde, wearing a black pillbox hat with a black veil, belted black dress and black high-heeled shoes, she had legs that never stopped--legs that reached as high as my sitting nipples. She asked if I was Trump.

"This is a one-person office and it says TRUMP, PI on the door, who else would I be?" I said.

"I don't know, who else would you be?" she replied. She was one sharp cookie.

I removed the fedora I was wearing and dropped it on my desk. She seemed impressed. "So," I said, gesturing to the wheeled wooden swivel-chair on the other side of my desk, "have a seat and tell me what I can do for you."

She sat down, the chair rumbling on the wood floor as it rolled back a few inches. She held her black purse upright in her lap, both hands resting on top of it, her knees peeking at me over the far edge of the desk. "Why don't you put your feet on the floor?" I asked.

"They are on the floor," she said.

"Wow," I couldn't help saying.

She told me a story of her great grandfather, who had served in Japan just after the Second World War ended and who, when he returned to America, carried a priceless treasure with him--a sword that he'd "liberated" from a Japanese museum. The Honjo Masamune Sword she called it, a one-of-a-kind invaluable artifact said to have been made in the 12th or 13th century by Japan's greatest-ever sword maker, Gorō Nyūdō Masamune. It had been passed down in her family from generation to generation, always kept hidden and never talked about. Only now it had gone missing. (She started to sob and I slid the desk-top tissue box I always keep handy to her side of the desk.) She took a few in her right hand, raised the veil slightly and began dabbing her eyes and nose. Still sobbing, she said she suspected her ex-husband--whom she'd divorced when she learned he worked for the Russian Mafia--had stolen it. He was the only one outside of her family's bloodline who knew where it was kept, and he had also gone missing. She wanted me to recover it.

Her reason for divorcing her husband didn't make much sense to me but then, any PI can tell you that marital disputes often don't make much sense. I told her she'd come to the right place though, since I had experience in these matters. I'd recovered many famous lost cultural objects in my time and returned them to their rightful illegal owners--The Crown Jewels of Ireland, Peking Man, and all but one of the missing Faberge Eggs among them. She said she'd never read about any of those things being recovered.

I said, "When I find your sword, will anyone read about that?" She saw my point. But she still seemed to have doubts. So I assured her several times that what I'd said was true, a technique which I had found in the past could yield surprising results. Apparently it worked. She enlisted my services and handed over half of my fee up front, as I require. I stood up and told her I'd get on it first thing in the morning, assuring her that she'd have her sword back within five days. I promised her she was in good hands and escorted her out.

Now, in my experience, searching for clues in detective work is wasted energy. Instead, I rely on "the four Is"--intimidation, intuition, instinct, and indeterminacy. The last "i" serves as a stand-in for "serendipity." I know they don't mean precisely the same thing, but "the four i's" sounds catchier than "the three I's and an S" and is easier to remember. Stay with me and you'll see how I use them.

To start my investigation, I got up early to play golf. You never know who you're going to run into at a golf course. I once saw D.B. Cooper flailing away in a sand trap at a course in Florida. Another time I spotted Jimmy Hoffa regaling his tablemates at my country club's restaurant with, I assume, anecdotes from his life on the lam. And another time, again at my country club, I saw dead Elvis, wearing his white jumpsuit and racing toward the clubhouse in a golf cart that matched the jumpsuit. So I taped a picture of Harry Holt (The Blonde's ex-husband) to my golf bag. You just never know.

I did not run into Holt that day. I also had a bad day on the links, shooting only a 69. My mood suffered as a result. When I arrived home I took out my frustrations on Twitter, as I often do when I'm down. Settling a few scores at the outset energized me for turning my focus on Holt, who in all likehood follows me as you can see from my follower numbers. (I can attest to their accuracy regardless of what your device might say.)

Holt you human scum. Return the precious object you've absconded with to my office within 72 hours or you'll regret it. If you thought "human scum" was bad, just wait till I get in the zone.
130,524,334 19:16 May 2020

Holt, don't make me come after you! I could shoot you down in the middle of Times Square or Plus Square Minus Square or Divided By Square and no one would give a rat's ass. That Scottish pantywaist isn't the only one with a license to kill you know.
130,978,556 19:21 May 2020

Holt, return the object within 72 hours or when I find you I'll make you drink an economy-size bottle of rubbing alcohol. It probably won't kill you but you'll wish it had. I know from experience.
132,111,153 19:35 May 2020

Of course, I don't really have a license to kill (more like a learner's permit). But Holt didn't know that.

A mile high from a night of tweeting, I set off for the links to help myself regain equilibrium. I hesitated going because I was forced to wear my sweat-soaked golf outfit from Monday. My brand new top-of-the-line washing machine with wi-fi ($1999.99)--which I'd been assured could match the flow of any 50s machine--would only produce about four drops of water even after I pressed the button nine or ten times. It turned out to be a satisfying day on the golf course anyway (64). But not at the office. No sign of Hunt or the sword and no left messages when I stopped there on the way home.

In the evening I sequestered myself in my study, where I have a way-upscale globe on a wooden stand ($13,750), the kind that sends Inspector Clouseau sprawling when he leans on it in Shot in the Dark.* I planned to spin the globe repeatedly, randomly putting my finger on it to stop it and then hopefully picking up some vibes indicating whether my finger was "hot" or "cold" as to the location of Holt and the sword. I hoped that at least discovering a general location would keep The Blonde's hopes up and maybe earn me more time.

It turned out to be rough going. I had to use a flashlight because only that part of the real world that is in daylight is lit on my globe at any given time, and the bulbs in my study provide about as much illumination as glow sticks. (Those Green New Deal guys are killing me!) Many hours and over 500 spins later, I sensed only "colds" and "luke warms" and a single "warm" (Flekkefjord, Norway). What had gone wrong? The globe spin had worked without fail in the past. Whatever the cause I now found myself two days in with no progress in the case. I began to feel the pressure.

The first thing I did was head to the miniature golf course where I play a round every Wednesday. I always pass the course on the way to my country club, and one day I stopped in on a lark to play a game. I ended up winning a free round by making a hole-in-one on the last hole and of course returned the next week. Who forgoes using a free pass to anything, especially when they've won it? Unfortunately I then became trapped in an endless cycle because, not surprisingly, I win a free game every time I play. I don't really mind though. It's a pleasant enough course (except for the windmill hole with all the dead birds on the ground) and, not taking much time to finish, alllows me to get in nine holes of real golf (which I did that day) before wrestling with whatever case I'm working on at the time.

Having until then not made any progress--a novel experience for me--that evening I got this uncanny feeling that the resposibility for my failure did not lie with me but with someone else. Ruminating on this for a while, it occurred to me that The Blonde may have unintentionally misled me. She had probably conducted a faulty search when looking for the sword!

So I called her and suggested she do a thorough second search, making sure to cover even unlikely places for the sword to be. Perhaps the object hadn't been stolen, but moved by Harry before the divorce or by another family member or absent-mindedly even by her. It happens. She responded to my suggestion quite curtly. Did I think she was an idiot? Was I enough of an idiot to think she hadn't searched every possible place ten times over? She ordered me to not call again unless I had real news to report. Some people!

The conversation so unnerved me that I watched cable news the rest of the night to distract myself. When I finally switched off the TV and entered the restroom to battle my restroom sink's luxury faucet ($3,200, three drops of water) while trying to brush my teeth, and after that to fight my palatial toilet ($18,176.22, 10 flushes required), I for some unfathomable reason suddenly felt decidedly optimistic about what the next day would bring.

A positive attitude serves as a key to success in almost any endeavor. I realized the previous night that such an attitude had been notably absent in my handling of the case. Giving this some thought, I had no trouble pinning down the cause: I had put too much pressure on myself to perform because of my desire to gain approval from The Blonde. So it was her fault after all! I felt liberated! I decided to keep the good vibes going by getting up at the break of dawn for golf. I didn't even neurotically stop at my office afterword. I had turned a corner.

Being in such a good mood that evening I felt like connecting with someone. So I called Manny, my acountant (who surprised me one day by revealing he also worked as a part-time DJ, billing himself as Rude E). He's much more than my accountant though. We've spent so much time together over the years dealing with the constant IRS audits I'm subjected to that he's become more of a friend and confidant. (Even though many of these audits result from Manny's work, my instincts tell me he's nonetheless totally reliable as both a tax adviser and a friend. Is it his fault he can sniff out deductions the IRS people refuse to recognize even when they're explained to them in seventh-grade English?). I filled him in on the case, explaining that I had made absolutely no progress and was running out of time, but felt confidant about the outcome anyway. "You're right not to worry," Manny said. "Everything will work out. Doesn't it always? Aren't you still the Trumpster? Just get a good night's sleep and enjoy your game tomorrow."

I did enjoy my game on Friday. My rejuvenated attitude propelled me to my best round of that week (5 birdies, an eagle, and 2 holes-in-one). Still, by the fifteenth hole my new-found confidence began to wane. I had promised The Blonde results by that evening and I still had nothing to offer. Then, on the eighteenth hole something marvelous happened. It was almost a miracle.

As I teed up I noticed a shadowy figure in the distance among the trees to the far right of the green who appeared to place something in the rough, then quickly left. As I approached the green, where my ball rested about 4 inches from the cup, a gleam appeared from the ground among those trees. I sank my putt then walked toward the glimmer, which began to increasingly reveal it's source as I advanced. My anticipation steadily grew until I finally beheld the the source in all its glory--The Masamune Sword! The shadowy figure must have been Harry Holt!

One odd detail presented itself as I picked up the sword however--a tag dangled from its hilt upon which had been printed a crossed-out $89.99 with a $57.99 next to it. I pondered the meaning of this puzzle. Soon it hit me. Holt must have had no place he considered secure enough to keep the sword, so he had affixed this fake tag to conceal the Masamune's true value from prying eyes. Hiding it in plain sight! Brilliant! I removed the tag, called The Blonde, told her I had good news, and asked her to meet me in my office the next day.

Shockingly, when The Blonde arrived at the appointed time and I showed her the sword, she became excessively violent. She took one glance at the artifact and immediately started screaming. "That's not my sword you dumbass!" she shouted, showering me and the Masamune with a barrage of epithets that seemed to me most unseemly in a woman who looked like she'd just stepped out of a 1940s film noir. She actually frightened me. I just hoped she didn't know how to do a Tatsumaki Senpukyaku (tornado kick). With those legs, she'd send my head all the way to Mount Rushmore.

Finally, apparently out of breath or swear words, she fell momentarily silent. I seized the opportunity and quickly repeated "This is the Masamune" a number of times. But my magic words did not soothe her on this occasion. I then added "It looks exactly like the sword in the picture you gave me! Check again! Maybe you gave me the wrong picture!"

She stood frozen, glaring into my eyes with rage for about ten seconds, then grabbed the sword by its hilt and walloped me over the head with a flat side of the blade. My ears rang. Then she stormed out the door shouting, "You'll hear from my lawyers!"

"Not if you hear from mine first!" I shouted at her as she walked stridently toward the exit.

Her parting remark didn't phase me really. I had half my fee, which equals the full fee charged by your average run-of-the-mill, clue-obsessed PI, and which in her rage she had apparently forgotten about. She wouldn't be getting it back either. Would she really go to a lawyer to say she wanted to sue me over a cultural object her great grandfather had stolen from the Japanese? I think not. As for my infatuation with her, well, some day she'll realize she's infatuated with me. She'll either be back or bear the burden.

I still have no idea what set her off though. Everything I did was perfect.

*By the way, Chief Inspector Dreyfus is the real doofus in these movies. Cluseau's methods get results. Drefus's plans always fail.

R.D. Ronstad writes mainly humor pieces and poetry. His work has appeared at Defenestration, The Big Jewel, Points in Case, The Rye Whiskey Review, Bindweed Magazine, Every Day Fiction and many other online sites. He lives with no dogs or cats or monkeys but has nothing against dogs or cats. A native Chicagoan, he currently resides in Phoenix, Az.
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