For whom the Neotropical Companion (hereafter simply the Companion) is a bit on the heavy side, there is another, more easily accessible book called Monkeys are made of chocolate. It is written by Jack Ewing who bought a cattle and rice farm at the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, somewhat north of Uvita. After a couple of years he decided to stop farming and turn it into a private nature reserve. That was in the 1970s. Hacienda Barú later received recognition as an official Nature Reserve and one can still visit it and take guided tours.
Jack Ewing wrote columns for local newspapers and some of these have been bundled in Monkeys are made of chocolate. In over 30 chapters he tells interesting stories about the hacienda, nature, evolution, sloths, biodiversity, reforestation and much more.
Some funny were the one where Ewing wonders, if vultures eat dead animals, what eats dead vultures? The answer is surprising but I won’t spoil it for you. Then there is the issue about sloths. Once a week they go down whatever tree they are in to relieve themselves. All biology books claim that they always go down the tree. It is a bit of a mystery why, but Ewing suddenly is not so sure about the ‘always’ part.
The book deals with a lot of topics, but lacks the systematic approach of the Companion. Then again, some of the topics do get more attention than they get in the Companion. There is a very interesting chapter about the leaf cutter ants, adding a lot to the summary of the Companion.
Arguably, the two books complement each other because the Companion provides the scientists’ introduction, whereas Monkeys are made of chocolate gives the view of the farmer-turned- conservationist. On the wider issues of biodiversity, evolution and deforestation the authors fully agree.
Jack Ewing (2005, 2011) Monkeys are made of chocolate. Masonville : PixyJack Press.