Monkey Swinging through the Rain Forest

A shaky platform allows a snapshot that soars

Silvery woolly monkey jumping

The primates of Yasuni National Park offer a perfect example of the astounding biodiversity of the Amazon rain forest. During a three-week trip there, I set out to photograph the park’s 10 monkey species.

I started getting images by joining primatologists who were following groups of monkeys from the ground. But many of the photos had a white-sky background, and I wanted something more interesting. So I climbed the canopy walkway at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station; though the chances of seeing a monkey near the walkway were pretty low, I kept returning to it hoping to get lucky.

One spot seemed promising: a little platform high above the hanging bridges. I had to climb a ladder up one of the tree trunks while harnessed to a safety line—not an easy thing to do with my bulky camera equipment. One day, just as I reached the platform, I heard a group of silvery woolly monkeys (Lagothrix poeppigii) and saw one appear at the top of a tree. She looked to her right as if contemplating a leap, so I framed a shot, giving her plenty of space to jump, and then hit the shutter as she began her leap. Her beautiful swan dive, with that large tail held up for balance, made all the time I spent up in the canopy worthwhile.

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