A monkey makes a meal of it

Monkey east lizard, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

A monkey makes a meal of it


Monkey eats lizard, Costa Rica

When you put yourself in the middle of nature, you can’t be too surprised when you see the realities of nature. It doesn’t mean you’re prepared for it to be so brutal.

It was getting late in the day when I was walking back to the beach at Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park. The area is full of wildlife and I had seen a sloth high the branches, a howler monkey lazing in a tree, and plenty of white-faced capuchin monkeys.

So I was not too surprised when I saw another white-faced capuchin race across the track in front of me. It was certainly moving a bit faster than the ones I had seen previously but it wasn’t something that I questioned. Not until I saw the flash of green in front of it, that was.

Monkey east lizard, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The capuchin, it turned out, was chasing a green lizard. It was a largish lizard – at least 30 centimetres long. It was not a fast enough lizard, though. The monkey caught up with it and wrapped its little paws around its body, lifting it off the ground.

What do you do with a lizard you’ve caught? Well, the monkey took it up into the branch of a nearby tree and looked around for any of his mates who might want their share. Luckily for this guy, there was nobody around. It was dinner for one.

Monkey east lizard, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

And so he then got stuck into the lizard as though it was a corn on the cob. It ripped off the tail and started with that, keeping a little bit for later (perhaps it was to be a toothpick at some point).

Holding the lizard tightly, the capuchin then bit right into the middle of its body. It munched away, chewing and chewing until it was ready to swallow – and then it took another bite.

Monkey east lizard, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Monkey east lizard, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

I was shocked. We all know that animals eat other animals but it’s not always so violently in your face. Most animals seem to have an unwitting self-consciousness about it and seem to do it with a level of privacy. This monkey was not going to wait until it was alone, though. It was hungry and was going to make sure it did not lose this opportunity.

I hope you enjoy the little video I managed to capture of the meal. It’s certainly not something you see every day. Although in Costa Rica, it’s probably more common than you realise.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Visit Costa Rica but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

  • TammyOnTheMove | Feb 20, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Amazing. You are so lucky that you were there to see this. You are right though, it is a bit shocking to see as you don’t really expect it from a monkey. A lot of primates do actually eat meat though. I think gorillas are one of the few that don’t.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Making merry at the world’s highest micro-breweryMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Yeah, I don’t imagine it’s too common to actually see it and I was quite lucky there. It was still quite a surprise. Monkeys are just supposed to eat bananas, right? 🙂

  • Lauren Meshkin | Feb 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Wow!! Very cool pictures and yes, pretty shocking. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels 🙂
    Lauren Meshkin recently posted..Photo Essay: Exploring Los Angeles with a TouristMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:49 am

      I think there’s an element of being in the right place at the right time to catch something like this. I guess for the lizard it was more the wrong place at the wrong time, though!

  • Samantha @mytanfeet | Feb 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Were we there at the same time? lol, we just got back from Manel Antonio today and we saw the exact same thing yesterday as we were leaving the park! The monkey raced behind me, grabbed a lizard, tore off its tail and started chowing down! It was soo crazy to see, the tail was still wiggling and you could see the juices oozing out of the poor lizard, the monkey was holding it so tight around the neck I’m pretty sure he strangeled it if getting eaten alive didn’t do it in. I felt kind of bad for the lizard but monkey gotta eat. I had no idea they ate lizards either but apparently they are very tasty!
    Samantha @mytanfeet recently posted..Hotel La Dolce Vita in Costa Rica – A Sweet Stay on Esterillos BeachMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:50 am

      I’m not sure I would want to try a raw lizard myself but, yeah, the monkeys seem to love it. How funny you saw the same thing as well!!

  • Steven | Feb 20, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Wow, great footage mate, and cool to see nature at its brutal best.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Steve, aka, Twenty First Century Nomad.
    Steven recently posted..Paris, With The Neon Turned OffMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:50 am

      Not your average home video, is it?! 🙂

  • Catherine | Feb 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Wow! This is so surreal. I had no idea monkeys ate lizards! Like you say, we know that animals eat animals, but it’s different actually seeing it happen!
    Catherine recently posted..Hotel Beds Around The WorldMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Maybe you expect it more on the plains of Africa or something like that. But everything seemed so peaceful at Manuel Antonio… until this! Monkeys aren’t so cute when they’re ripping apart a lizard like this!

  • Bret @ Green Global Travel | Feb 22, 2014 at 12:57 am

    *sings* It’s the ciiiiiiiiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiiiiiiiife…

    Those photos are awesome, Michael.
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..Pitch Your Park! Rangers Plug Six of the Best US National ParksMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:55 am

      Ha ha – great, thanks, now you’ve got that song stuck in my head!! 🙂

  • Devlin @ Marginal Boundaries | Feb 22, 2014 at 7:55 am

    damn, he is really going to town on that lizard! I like how he doesn’t really care who’s watching, even looking around like “yeah, what?!”. Makes me wonder what an ape might do to one of us.
    Devlin @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted..Life on the Road: The Business of Travel Blogging – A PreviewMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:56 am

      It’s a good reminder that these places aren’t zoos. This is exactly how nature behaves whether we’re there or not… and I love that!

  • Jaryd | Feb 22, 2014 at 10:22 am

    haha go him!

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:56 am

      I’m glad you’re on the side of the monkey!! (Always pick the winning side, right?)

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica | Feb 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Wow! That is certainly an odd thing to see.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Photography 101: 7 must-know tips for shooting at nightMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

      I certainly didn’t expect it but I guess it’s not that odd in the broader context of nature. Still, a rather surreal sight.

  • Irina | Feb 24, 2014 at 8:49 am

    oh nooooooo! I refuse to believe that a cute banana-eating monkey would munch on a lizard, which was alive at the time! :((
    Irina recently posted..Finding A Second Half In The World’s Most Populous CountryMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:58 am

      The good news is that I don’t think it was alive for too long… does that help?

      • Irina | Apr 5, 2014 at 3:59 am

        haha not really…

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel | Feb 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Wow! What a sight. That monkey sure was hungry. At least he wasn’t eating or throwing poop in the video! 😉 Thanks for sharing.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..Help Elephant Nature Park Save Elephants to Win a Trip to Thailand!My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:58 am

      He could tell I was there but really didn’t seem to care. I wouldn’t like to say that he was showing off for the camera… but…

  • Jennifer | Mar 23, 2014 at 4:45 am

    It’s so easy to forget that monkeys do eat meat since we are probably accustomed to them munching on fruit in zoos. He sure does look like he’s enjoying his meal!
    Jennifer recently posted..30 Stunning Wildlife Photos from Tarangire National ParkMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 4:58 am

      He was enjoying it but he was also being pretty careful to keep an eye on things around him. Luckily no other monkeys came along to get their share… things could have turned very nasty!!

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