Chronicles in Primate Studies: pt. 1

This blog is going to be a multi-part series going through some of my experiences during my last field season and possibly my final primate study. This study took place from June 3-July 29, 2016 and resulted in my Master’s thesis. I was there (alone) to study the effects of ecology on female social relationships of introduced rhesus macaques in the Ocala National Forest. As stated before, I am now doing research in historical cultural production. Anyways, here we go!

I drove from NC to FL on June 3rd after having to wait an extra couple days for my Sea Eagle Razorlite kayak to arrive. I got to Gore’s Landing in central FL at around 1pm, set up my hammock and hit the river. I should mention here that I lived out of a hammock with no electricity, in the sweltering summer heat for a couple months. I scouted on the river for several hours, trying to find the macaques I was there to study.  They were not in the location I found them on my preliminary scouting trip but no problem, I would go out the next morning. I got back to Gore’s Landing at around dusk. I was carrying my boat back to where I hung my hammock and there was a new couple there so I decided to have a word with them.

Aside: Gore’s Landing is pretty remote so most of the people that use it are fairly local.

I introduced myself and inquired about whether they knew about the monkeys inhabiting the Florida river system. The man did and proceeded to tell me stories of his experiences with them, including a raid on their camp. He then gave me a dire warning: “Let me tell you something. I’m from down in Hog Valley, and the people there; they’ll kill you.” Of course this immediately grabbed my attention- I came into the field season worried about alligators (they were pretty cool), poison ivy (didn’t have a problem with that but poison sumac will be a future story), snakes (had a couple close encounters- another story), and mosquitoes (which did make me sick at one point), but not people. This man then asked me: “Does anybody know where you are?” To which I responded: “Of course! I have colleagues working in Silver Springs State Park!” He retorted “good! Because them people’ll kill you and they’ll toss you in the river and no one will ever know what happened to you.”

I promptly ended the conversation because I couldn’t tell if this giant of a man was giving me a sincere warning or a veiled threat. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night. A combination of the terrible heat and a fear for my life kept me tossing and turning. That was my first night in the swamp. I spent a lot more time sleeping away from Gore’s Landing and in the floodplain of the river closer to the monkeys after that night.

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