It was dark this morning. Darker than usual, which is saying something when its 6 AM in hot and humid Cape Town. Finding sleeping baboons can be tough in the early morning, but they usually give themselves away with occasional grunts, and top it off with a blatant copulation call.
We had seen them the previous night, but as far as we could tell there were no animals. As soon as they move, monkeys become more easily visible in the trees, but a silent, immobile, unlit baboon is almost impossible to identify, even if you're surrounded by sixty of them.
Which I was. I had just started off to go look elsewhere when a fine mist began to deposit minuscule particles of an unknown liquid on my skin. Rain? I thought at first. Weather reports had indicated a possibility for light rain. This conjecture was erased from my mind the moment my nose got a whiff of the repulsive odor of concentrated urea.
About twenty seconds of cursing followed. Then, "Hey guys, they're over here!"
A word on monkey piss. Getting urinated on my tree dwelling primates is a bit of rite of passage among primatologists. You're not a real field research until you've been soiled by an oblivious monkey. I have already been brought into the fold, so each additional time that invisible haze and accompanying smell settles upon me, it is a matter of some consternation. At least I've yet to be pooped on.
The worst is when its raining, though. The monkeys will rush up into the trees to huddle, much of the time. Unfortunately for those below, the rain runs down the trunk, collecting on the coat of the monkey, which pools around the tail, and transform into a fountain of hidden horrors. Baboon butts are not pleasing to any human sense. Well, none of mine. More on this another time...
The darkness may have had something to do with the silence. Cloud cover does a surprising amount for diminishing the sunlight at dawn, and the baboons might just have been truly asleep until I "woke them up" (though I've never heard them so taciturn). As it happened, we waited about twenty minutes without hearing a sound, and the moment after I got wet, the grunting began, soon to be followed by an all to earnest copulation. Thanks for the timing, guys. Wicked pisser.