By Glenn Shepard Jr., Medical Anthropologist and Ethnobotanist
All text and photos copyright © 1997 by Glenn Shepard Jr.

Cesar, the one they call Irasaniri, 'Bitten by Caiman,' pulls back firm and hard on his palm wood bow, aiming the razor sharp bamboo tip of an arrow straight up into the rain forest canopy. Eighty feet above, a large male spider monkey eats Pouteria fruits, unaware of the human predator below. The black shape makes a sudden motion to the right, out of Cesar's field of vision in the dense understory. "Probably heard us," whispers Cesar to his brother-in-law, releasing the tension on the bow in a smooth snap.

Oscar digs up the pungent bulbs of a sedge variety used specifically for hunting spider monkeys.

He takes a few quiet steps and doubles over a few spindly understory palms that obstruct his view, never taking his eyes off the monkey far overhead. He again takes up his stance, and this time removes a small cluster of sedge (Cyperus) bulbs from a net bag slung across his back. He snaps off one piece and chews the bitter, aromatic quid.

He rubs the chewed root onto his bow and arrow shaft, and then spits a fine, turpentine-smelling spray upward as he watches the monkey. "Straight up, straight to the heart, no branches, fly straight and fast," he mumbles to the bow, to the arrow, to the monkey, to himself. The muscles across his back stand out in relief for a moment as he draws and aims the taut bow.

The ideal bow shot for hunting monkeys is straight up into the high forest canopy.

He releases the arrow with a soft grunt and a snap of the string. The arrow whizzes through the air and hits its target square in the chest. The monkey utters an almost human scream. Had the arrow been a few inches off its mark, the monkey could have escaped with a mere flesh wound, putting the hunters in store for a long and exhausting chase, and the possibility of losing the coveted meat. Instead, the monkey wavers, tires, loses its grip, then plummets to the earth in a shower of blood.

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