Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Sounds of PPS

The morning after I arrived at PPS, I awoke to what I assumed was the sound of trilling birds. I came to find that the sound was in fact, 44 Callitrichids, two capuchins, and two spider monkeys. In the next few weeks I would begin to recognize the first layer of these sounds, and as a caregiver one of my most important jobs was to know, separate, and understand the cacophony of noises here that never stops.

The first layer is the superficial layer- maintenance workers hammering, crickets and birds and toads and the ocean and all the sounds that come with a tropical rainforest. The second layer contains the sounds of the monkeys. The alarm calls, the inquisitive noises, the sounds of volunteers and other caregivers, the sounds of everything and anything that might impact the monkeys. When I learned this layer I learned the sound of a car approaching the driveway from across site- I even learned the sounds of the respective maintenance worker’s cars. I also learned that sound, for some reason, travels and bounces around here in a way I never could have anticipated. I learned that when the neighbors drive down the road it sounds like it’s coming from the forest behind the yurts, but once you trudge through the foliage you will find that the noise is actually coming from well off the property. This layer also encompasses the sounds of the night- the geckos calling (which sounds rather like monkeys fighting, but as I learned my first night is- in fact- not), and the general chitter chatter of the jungle.

I next began to separate the sounds unique to the individuals who reside here. I knew the chirps that meant my pants were too brightly colored and the monkeys were alarmed by them, and the noises that meant the shoes I was wearing covered my toes and someone didn’t approve. I never woke from my bed at five in the morning more quickly or more alert than when the entire building of monkeys began to alarm call because the neighbor’s cat was walking too close to their enclosures.

 Over the next few months, I finally began to hear the most elusive noises. These sounds came from individuals who had become comfortable with my presence. The noises that a cotton top tamarin makes when she wants her partner to groom her. The long calls and responses of partners separated. The happy grunt of an ex-pet marmoset who was never given the opportunity to learn the way his species communicates. He doesn’t quite have the hang of it, but he’s learning. The inquisitive noises of a tamarin who is having mobility problems, and who may be  scared, but he also knows you have something tasty and that it might be for him. The greeting whinny of the spider monkeys, who can hear you walking through the orchard collecting fruit and want to know which of their caregivers it is. These are the noises that a rare few are given the privilege of experiencing, and PPS is one of the few environments in the world which fosters them. The next aspect of PPS I came to learn in such a dimensional way was the smells, and that’s a story for another day. 

Written by Katie Anderson

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