Capistrano, Marinela Isabelle M.
Social Climbers & Food for Thought
Big brains and grasping hands: these are similarities between man and monkey that have enabled them to stand out from the rest in the animal kingdom. In the first part of the interesting documentary which was entitled, “Social Climbers”, it was shown that one of the most important features of man and monkey that links them together is their being social, and hence; the wittiness of the title. Witty—for the words “social climbers” are generally associated to humans but in this case, actually refer to monkeys who literally do climb and, like the humans, are social beings.
First of all, with these monkeys’ impressive ability to adapt to their environments and thus to survive, they have developed a sense of ‘culture’ among their fellows. It was portrayed in the film how monkeys pass on ‘traditions’ from one generation to another; may it be from methods in opening clams for food or in protecting themselves from mosquitos by picking the right medicinal plants for them to rub on their skin. It isn’t every monkey for himself.
In the jungle where danger lurks in every corner, monkeys have also formed anti-predator alliances. They work side by side with their comrades to protect each other. They established an effective form of communication wherein they assign different alarm calls or sounds for the different predators, overcoming the poor visibility in the forest. Lastly, these monkeys have a sense of hierarchy of power. They are not only social but political creatures as well. An alpha male can lead a group of as much as 50 monkeys, depending on the size of his brain, as the film mentions. So it is brain and power that takes one monkey to rise in a group. Familiar, is it not?
Monkeys have the ‘ability to spot an opportunity and grab it’. Their brains have allowed them to be very inquisitive just like their evolved counterparts who are in fact the powerful animals with astounding scientific discoveries and technological inventions dominating the world today. In the second part of the documentary entitled, “Food for Thought”, Attenborough discusses that exploitation of the environment for food (with its increase also entailing increase in human population) is what brought down the Maya civilization a couple million years ago. Our evolved and larger brains would be put to waste if we do not change our abusive ways with our resources for the human race may be close to facing a tragedy similar as to that of the Maya’s.
I started to appreciate the diversity of the bird species in the UP Diliman campus even during my first semester in UP. However, I had only started to appreciate bird watching as a hobby or better yet, a physical exercise (I used to really wonder why there was such a PE class) when we had our bird watching activity in class last May 6. It was a tiring but fun experience facilitated by our guest speaker, Sir Vallejo.
It was only then that I discovered that the Diliman campus is home to more than 50 different bird species. During the discussion, I learned the basics of bird watching or as they call it, “birding” or the art of looking at birds. I also realized that this practice involves being systematic especially when it is conducted for a scientific study. I really did enjoy my first experience in “birding” and now, I have adopted the habit of always looking up whenever I hear a chirping sound and can’t help searching for those lovely bird species whenever I go around the campus.
When our group went ‘random walking’ around the College of Science complex, we encountered about 5 different species which were, absolutely, not that easy to spot without a careful eye. The first one we saw was, of course, the common Maya bird. It was all that we kept on seeing for almost 10 minutes. Eventually, as we went on exploring the complex, we finally spotted the less common birds; most of which we weren’t able to identify. One of those that we did identify was the long-tailed shrike which we saw in twos or threes near the National Institute of Physics. We also spotted a bunch of pigeon-looking birds near the Math building. A mysterious dark bird with a tail lined with white also crossed our path and left us amazed.
The birds are remarkable. It makes you think about the many wonders the world is waiting for us to see. They are already there, on top of the trees, hiding behind leaves or bushes, simply waiting for us to just look hard enough. I really wish to preserve the beauty of the Diliman campus so that when I revisit the campus a couple of years later, I’d still be able to enjoy watching the same beautiful and exotic birds.