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Rhesus monkey body language and noises

1/2/2011
In writing this article all that is said and observed is strictly my own experiences with my two Rhesus monkeys Coty and Haily.  You will find some similarities I'm sure as well as some big differences according to personalities of the individual monkeys, like in people their variations are as unique as the people they live with are.  And by no means am I an expert, these are all my own observations and opinions on my own monkeys and what I have found to be true with their behavior.

As in humans, monkeys too have a body language all there own and understanding it is a learning process.  I myself am in my third year of studying my Rhesus monkeys body language.  They are very verbal monkeys, and are very persistent in making they're what must seem stupid, human to understand what it is they are communicating to me.

I would have to compare it to learning about your baby as a new mom, since they can not talk, you must learn to understand their noises, and cries to be able to comfort them and fill their needs.  In learning about your new baby you soon understand the cries like a language all their own.  Within weeks you understand what hungry sounds like, scared, wet diaper, and the noises of contentment.

A monkey is very similar to a baby communicating with you; I have learned the sounds for hungry, mad, scared, excited, wet diaper, juice, and mom you there?   As well as the sounds when in a loving mood, like I want to cuddle mom.  Mine even have a noise for I'm tired, want to go to bed, get my stuffy, translated that's a stuffed toy companion.

Each sound is very individual as well as the body language that goes along with whatever they are trying to communicate with me.  In a loving mood my monkeys make very sweet noises, like owls hooting very soft, this could mean depending on the time of day, they want to be cuddled, want a nap, or want to go to bed.  The body language used with these noises are ones of soft touches, kisses, and rubbing of faces, grooming may be a part of the loving body gestures also.

The time of day will help me determine what they are wanting as well as the body language that goes with it.  Grabbing their stuffy means hold me I'm tired and want to cuddle and go to sleep.  Sitting in the corner of the cage making the same noise watching for me, means mom come here, want your attention and to be held and be with you.

Loud one pitched noises from another room, made singular, are inquiring where I am, like a person coming into your house not knowing where you are yelling out, Hello?  A crabby attitude means one of two things, dirty diaper, that comes with what I call a whining noise that sounds like a bunch of loud agitated squawks more that one in sequence, sounding very complaining and irritating to the ear to listen to.  The other possibility is that they've had enough of what ever they are doing and are bored.

A rolling noise of the tongue like a loud cat purr is an inquiring noise meaning what?  Questioning your actions as to interpret your meaning or action, as to are you mad, sad, aggressive, what?  In my answering to them by touch and face gestures they understand what it is I want, and the mood I'm in.

An example of the above statement, I will call Coty's name and he will answer with a loud purr, meaning what?  He does not understand what I'm calling for but will answer and see when I come to him how I react to him.  He then understands what I wanted in my actions.  Coty will make that noise in question while watching TV, in seeing someone hit someone he will make a loud purr with his hair back, this is a what?  With warning!  He does understand that someone has been hit and it was aggressive, and he questions the aggression, in wondering what is going to happen next?

He will watch a movie like Titanic and knows the part where Kate is calling for someone to help her free the hand cuffed person, and in her calling for help, Coty will answer with a loud purr, what?  Understanding she is looking for someone and calling to someone, he will answer.

Another body language sign Coty will use is tapping me on the shoulder when he wants something.  It will be a quick tap and he will look in the direction of what it is that he wants, whether it is the refrigerator, or something he sees about the room.  No is a swift headshake sometimes accompanied by a tap on the shoulder.  Once it has been determined what he is looking at, like the refrigerator, we will open it and look inside, he will tap until I've picked up the right thing, and shake his head no to everything picked up wrong.

In finding that special treat that Coty has tapped my shoulder till I've found it. he has little hand gestures that he makes when I feed him something, like a traffic Director directing traffic.  With his left hand he signals like bring it in closer, when he has had enough; his left hand then signals a hand motion that looks like stop!  But it's really not stop, just hold it a minute till I'm ready for the next bite.  Then his left hand will signal come on ahead for his next bite.  It has to be the funniest thing I've ever seen, truly the hand gestures look exactly like come on, and stop.  These hand gestures or body language as it may be, did not need any interpreting.

Aggression is very easy to read with a Rhesus, the hair is pulled back off the forehead, a loud purr is usually made a few times, the chin out and they're face up in yours, with a very fierce attitude to accompany the gestures.  Any movement that may come with this attitude may be fast hand tags to the face of the person they are becoming aggressive with.  This aggression can arise with what seems like no reason, but there is always reason, animals do not react for any reason, it's a chain reaction kind of thing.  You may not realize that your movement may have been taken as an aggressive move, towards them or their humans.  Fast movement around any animal can result in a bite.  Another face gesture that arises is what appears to be a smile this is the total opposite of aggression, this means I'm scared, Please do not come any closer.

A clear example is if you own a dog you know that you would never with a strange dog who does not know your body movements, approach it fast and palm down with your arm extended.  This would generally invite a bite, from that dog, the dog seeing it as you possibly trying to hit it.  Again body language is what all animals read, and with someone they do not know can be taken as aggressive actions.

A lot of body language with Rhesus is the same or similar with my two, but may differ a bit with other Rhesus outside my home as they were raised somewhat different.  Like to homes each speaking two different languages may raise something similar but with different words.  So watching is the key word to understanding your monkeys body language the best possible way.

Remember with monkeys aggressive behavior is part of what they   are to some degree, as in the wild they will fight for rank in their groups strongest to weakest.  This is with every kind of animal in the wild, so understand you can not change what thousands of years of breed behavior have inbred in your monkey.

In many articles you read about Rhesus monkey, it is said that mouth open is a sign of aggression, I have found with mine it isn't so, open mouth usually means in a playful mood, let's roughhouse!  Never has open mouth lead to fighting with one another, too ruff of play could cause fighting, usually very short in duration ending with them in each other's arms smacking lips and grooming.

It is important to understand the language that your monkey is using, as it will be the language they will be using with you for all the years of your monkeys life with you.  This is something that is not hard to understand given time and watching your monkey as it grows from baby to adult and taking mental notes of what it is that they wanted with every noise they have communicated with you.  Time and patience is the key word here.  Remember how it was with your human baby, when it could not speak to tell you, in time you understood without a word.  If you've never had a human baby, this is the closet thing to it, just a bit more active.

It seems that the more interaction you have with your monkey the more body language grows, and in doing this so does the vocabulary of words your monkey seems to understand by sound.  I spend no less than 2-4 hours a day, or in my case night, with my monkeys and have made a good mental directory of the noises I've become familiar with, to the point of sometimes feeling like I read my monkeys thoughts, that we are on the same wave length.

As with all things in this world time is the key to everything we do in this life that we accomplish, and in time all things come to a better understanding for the reason for which something has happened or taken place.  So I would say that take time will be the key to communication with your monkey, so watch and learn and take in what you hear and see.  My mental directory grows everyday with my monkey kids enabling me to know them and what they are about and I hope that in sharing this observation, maybe someone got more of an idea of what they're monkey kid is saying to them.  Good Luck monkey parents! 

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