You know you’re having a true jungle moment when a monkey sits on your head.
Maria the spider monkey (names have been changed to protect the innocent) loves to steal visitors’ plastic water bottles. She lives on Monkey Island, a sanctuary in the Madre de Dios river in the Peruvian Amazon jungle. She is an inquisitive and agile monkey.
Our group was gathered around a feeding platform as Maria eyed us all curiously and our guide talked about rescuing Amazonian primates from the pet trade. I was leaning casually near the small plank scattered with food bits while Maria played with a plastic bottle, when unexpectedly she scampered across the plank and decided that my head would make a good perch. In a flash my vision was blocked by black fur, and a long, very strong tail wrapped snugly around my neck – so snugly, in fact, that I had to wedge a finger between her tail and my skin to be able to breathe. I could hear cameras going off all around me.
Well, like I always say, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a monkey’s butt on the top of your head. After a few minutes on my head, Maria decided she needed a different viewpoint and climbed onto someone else’s hair.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience. And in a few decades, a never-in-anyone’s lifetime experience. Our rain forests are being deforested at such an alarming rate and so many species are dying out completely that nations around the world have declared an international Climate Emergency.
Coming in for a landing into Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian Amazon, it wasn’t hard to spot the scars of clear-cutting.
It’s making the news in a big way now. You may have been seeing some of the headlines, such as Nature crisis: Humans ‘threaten 1m species with extinction’.
According to Rainforest Rescue, we are, on average, losing an appalling 150 species each and every day! If you were to think of that in terms of ‘man’s best friend’, dogs, that would be roughly the equivalent of every single dog on the planet being wiped out in three days.
When I was a child, I mourned the loss of famously extinct species like the Passenger Pigeon and the Dodo bird, which I would never see because of the stupidity of earlier humans who didn’t understand the impact of what they were doing. You’d think that, as we evolve as a society, we’d have learned something.
Every species on this planet is critical to the ecosystem that it lives in as well as our global ecosystem. The disappearance of these thousands of species will have an impact that continues well into the future.
Animal species also help keep our plants alive by pollination, dropping fruit pits to germinate in new areas, and transporting seeds in their fur. Without this continuous regenerative cycle, we are doomed.
Rain forests are majestic and magical places. Ancient remedies climb over each other in the undergrowth, bananas and mangoes grow wild, tree trunks transmit sound so far that local people use them as geolocators. To walk through the forest is to immerse yourself in the lungs of our planet as they breathe and pulse around you. I’ll let some of my photos speak for themselves.
A butterfly investigates my husband’s hiking boot.
The rain forest embraces our Amazonian jungle lodge.
Let’s play ‘Spot the parrot’!
Lush wild banana trees
Rain forests are in severe danger, as are all of their inhabitants, from millions of plants, animals and insects to the many tribes who’ve called the forests home for centuries. We have no right to take that gift of life away from them.
You can help. You can visit these incredible treasures to understand what they mean to the world ecosystem, and to all your children who’ll have to cope with the wreck we are making of this planet, and you can sign petitions to pressure governments to stop mining interests and rapacious developers.
Local people as well as corporations destroy riverine habitats through indiscriminate mining
Petitions work. One such petition needs 200,000 signatures quickly: “UNESCO World Heritage: tell the palm oil barons to back off!” All it takes is a few moments of your time to make a difference. The, maybe one day in the future, your children will be able to find their own wild and incorrigible Maria monkey to have a close encounter with.