Pacific Rubiales, Talisman get the cute fuzzy monkey!

Callicebus caquetensis

Nothing better for a critically endangered monkey than a 1,152-km seismic survey! (Image from Wired News)

There’s a new species of Titi monkey. It purrs. And it lives in an area where Pacific Rubiales Corp. and Talisman Energy recently won the right to explore for oil.

The bid round, called Ronda Colombia 2010, had as its slogan “Colombia: The perfect environment for hydrocarbons.” Now we get to see which part of that slogan wins out — the hydrocarbons part or the “perfect environment” part.

You can see a map of where the monkey lives in the original paper (PDF) and a map of the CAG-5 block that Rubiales and Talisman Energy won here (graphics-heavy, computer-choking PDF)

You can see if you look at the shape of the Caguan river that this is almost certainly the same place. One population of the monkeys appears to be within the so-called CAG-5 block, while the other population is probably outside the exploration area.

On winning the block June 23, Rubiales said:

CAG 5 Block: This block was awarded to a joint venture formed by the company’s subsidiary, Meta Petroleum Corp. (50%) and Talisman (50%). The block is a Type 3 Special Technical Evaluation Agreement (TEA) block with an area of 372,036 hectares located towards the central part of the Caguan Basin. During the 36 months of the first exploration phase, the joint venture will invest US$82.2 million in the acquisition of 1,846 km of multi-spectral analysis, 1,152 km of 2D seismic, and the drilling of five stratigraphic wells. The winning bid carries an additional royalty of 2%. The block is located just to the north of the company’s Tacacho and Terecay Contracts. The company believes that this block has a very high potential for hydrocarbon accumulation and should maintain the continuity of the Tacacho and Terecay structures towards the north.

Seismic exploration generally involves driving machines along more or less straight lines through the territory and vibrating the ground to detect the geology. Rather like a purring monkey, only bigger.

No one at Pacific Rubiales was immediately available to comment.

The area of southern Colombia in question was under guerrilla control for a long time, making it off-limits for both biologists and oil companies. Now, the government has secured the area and is handing out oil exploration licenses before the biologists can conduct even the level of surveys that detects mammals, much less the slow, difficult work of finding new species of lizards, butterflies, fish or frogs.

46 thoughts on “Pacific Rubiales, Talisman get the cute fuzzy monkey!

  1. wordsfromawoman

    Well, you’re already know who’s going to win this fight, right? Hey, as long as there’ll be a few of these monkeys in a few zoos, what’s the big deal, say the profit gluttons.

    You say that this is a species newly discovered but the caption of the photograph says it’s critically endangered. Do you have any hard data on populations of this adorable monkey.

    We’re not going to change the BPs, the Pacific Rubiales Corporations and Talisman Energy Corporations. But we ought to assume part of the blame for the disappearance of so many species. So, let’s get out of the car and commute by public transportation, take the bike or just walk.

  2. sapitosetty Post author

    Flatland: No, cuter would be illegal.
    Crystal: And thank you for reading. Enjoy your date, it’ll be fine.
    Woman: There’s no fight yet. Pacific Rubiales has a lot of projects on its plate. I’m trying to reach the company to find out whether/how they will change their plans based on this new discovery. The population is estimated at about 250 and the zoologists are trying to get it listed as critically endangered.

  3. otto

    Sorry Flatland, it doesn’t finish there. Once we’re all done on this sphere we go visit the tall blue dudes’ planet and start again. I mean sheesh, haven’t you seen the documentary yet?

  4. She.Is.Just.A.Rat

    This type of seismic exploration for oil has also been sought after in the Arctic as well. Luckily a judge in Nunavut ordered the Canadian government to stop the ice breaker that was on its way to Lancaster Sound for the testing. Unfortunately, the order is temporary, however the Canadian government had previously issued a commitment to develop a marine conservation area in the Sound that many are hoping they will remember to honour. It’s sad to see that despite this small victory in the Canadian North, the hunt for cheap power sources will continue to exist, and we will not look elsewhere in order to prevent the destruction of the habitat and species that we likely have not even catalogued.

    1. lampoondish

      That must have been an edge-of-seat kind of news.
      Perhaps all governments should have a more equal representive of their nations’ interest- get a biologist or environmentalist in there.
      How can one permit ransacking when proper checks haven’t even been done.

  5. Elio Ohep

    Colombia has a very strict process to get environmental permits “Licencias Ambientales” that the oil companies have to complete before they can go in to the awarded block to do any type of work, if you look at the Rubiales performance in their Sustainability you can see that they are very aware of their impact of their operations and they are committed to undergo work under strict guidelines to make sure the minimize the impact of its operations.

    ” Before starting operations in a new block, we conduct environmental impact studies that allow us to identify and plan the environmental monitoring of the impact on the water, air, flora and noise. In 2010 we are implementing studies of the environmental impact in areas affected by new developments and operations.” taken from Rubiales’ Sustainability report 2009.

    What bothers me about your article is that you taken a cheap shoot to Rubiales just because they been awarded a new block in the Caguan area where the Caqueta Titi Monkey or Callicebus (Primates: Platyrrhini) and has not yet been classified an as Critically Endangered, although it has been highly recommended due to the few numbers suspected in existence, less that 250 250 mature individuals in the area. – Original paper (PDF) (Callicebus caquetensis: A New and Critically Endangered Titi Monkey from Southern Caquetá, Colombia Thomas R. Defler, Marta L. Bueno and Javier García Departamento de Biología, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia).

    The study mentions ” This species is scarce and its habitat is fragmented. It occurs at very low densities in agricultural land, in fragmented remnants of the former forest. Dispersal is impossible or at best highly dangerous for the animals, since they must cross grassy savanna or barbed wire to reach neighboring forest fragments.

    Also it recommends, “Immediate efforts are needed to publicize the presence and the state of this primate species as well as create some small reserves in the region.” (

    I do not know what is your purpose with the article, but the way is written, is not exactly to show the environmental considerations that Rubiales have to take in account in the awarded area, but more like to question Colombia rights to develop its oil resources and leaving an open question Rubiales environmental practices.

    “The bid round, called Ronda Colombia 2010, had as its slogan “Colombia: The perfect environment for hydrocarbons.” Now we get to see which part of that slogan wins out — the hydrocarbons part or the “perfect environment” part.”

    In, we have a 10 year record in defending the environment from oil companies depredation of sensitive environmental areas, but we also have a record of promoting the oil companies best practices and social responsibility projects in fragile areas.

    1. otto

      In petroleumworld you also have a 10 year record of taking cheap shots at Venezuela and incorrectly calling the country’s imminent demise every single year.

      But hey…..who’s counting?

        1. otto

          Well I think we are on the subject, Elio. You want to tell us what’s done right and wrong by the oil biz, but your site has a pisspoor record of getting facts and forecasts right.

  6. sarahnsh

    The monkey is too adorable but it also purrs? That just makes it adorable beyond words! I know the ‘perfect environment’ part won’t win out, which is sad but it doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately.

  7. Maree Giles

    If you are going to object to oil companies drilling for oil anywhere in the world, at least stop driving a car and walk. It’s hypocritical to do anything else.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Maree — I’m 39. I’ve never owned a car, didn’t even get a driver’s license til I was 32. I live in a dense walkable city not because I love the smell, but because I don’t want to drive a car. So, you know, STFU.

      Second, I’m not complaining about drilling anywhere in the world. If you read the blog, you’ll see that while I kvetch a lot about the oil industry, I am also generally impressed with how often things don’t go wrong. This is an example of a possible conflict that will be interesting to watch. Nothing more. Take care and thanks for reading.

  8. sapitosetty Post author

    Elio – I appreciate your highlighting of Pacific Rubiales’ environmental statements and of Colombia’s environmental review laws. I was not aiming to take a cheap shot at either of them. Pointing out that a company is now in a pickle because of a new species’ discovery is not a cheap shot.

    However now that you’ve brought it up, I’d like to point out a few things:

    -A company saying that it follows environmental laws isn’t the same as a company being environmentally benign. Rubiales, for example, used to dump (I don’t know if it still does) tens of thousands of barrels a day of treated water from its oil wells into the Rubiales River. I’ve never seen any third-party testing on this water. Maybe it exists, but the company hasn’t made it public as far as I can tell. If you just want to take the word of a for-profit company operating in a remote region in the bloody oil industry, be my guest. I’ll remain skeptical, as I think every journalist should.

    -Colombia may have an environmental permitting program, but obviously it’s doing things backwards in the Amazon. As I say at the end of the blog post, this monkey shows that there are undiscovered species in the area. If Colombia wants to show its environmentalism, it needs to commission massive assessments of the new exploration areas before giving out the blocks to oil companies, and not wait for some lucky hit by a gringo zoologist. I am not questioning the country’s right to develop its resources.

    -As far as your attempt to show Petroleum World as a bastion of fairness to companies, well that’s fine, keep it up. A bit of fairness to your contributors would be nice too — I’ve never given you permission to use the articles you’ve lifted off this site in their entirety. I’d really prefer you post the first paragraph or two and give a link. Thanks.

  9. Kepler


    Thanks for talking about environmental concerns in South America.

    If an organization says it is doing its homework, that may be the case but a journalist has to doubt and check and double and triple check.

    A German who worked for years in the environment in South America told me: yeah, Venezuela has some of the most stringent environmental laws but they are worth little.

    And indeed that is true. I also know a couple of Venezuelans who have worked in authorizing or not all pipelines and other construction work and they have told me how higher powers have just overturned their decisions because of cheap politics. Venezuela is not Colombia, but they are close in many ways.

  10. natinanorton

    I have two concerns with this article and its subsequent comments.

    First, Elio quotes from a 2009 Sustainability report: “Before starting operations in a new block, we conduct environmental impact studies that allow us to identify and plan the environmental monitoring of the impact on the water, air, flora and noise.”

    That’s all well and good, but I don’t see the word ‘independent’ attached to ‘studies.’ How can anyone take the results seriously when it’s conducted by, sponsored by, and/or overseen by the very same people who have a financial interest in the results going their way? Just look at the Diary Farmers Association sponsoring studies that say kids need to drink more milk or The Corn Refiners Association saying high fructose corn syrup is as safe as sugar. Maybe I’m missing something, but there appears to be a conflict of interest. An honest, responsible company should always seek out independent analysis before claiming to be squeaky clean.

    And speaking of squeaky, yes the monkey is very cute indeed. And it purrs too? That’s fabulous. I’m just wondering if people would really care that much if it screamed incessantly with the face of Abe Vigoda? Ugly animals deserve to be saved too, people! Maybe even the selfish, egotistical ones who can’t seem to move away from a petroleum-based economy. :)

    P.S. I do not own a car.


  11. Elio Ohep


    You are saying, if the companies paid for the studies they are not valid?

    Well, the Colombian laws and most of the countries have legislation that provide that you will have to get an environmental licence before doing any work in certain areas, usually they provide for guidelines as to the qualifications of the people you will give the work to, but you must paid for, if not who is going to do the work ?


    1. natinanorton


      What I’m saying is that if those conducting the studies are not acting independently, then there will be – at the very least – the appearance of bias, such as with the Dairy Farmers and Corn Refiners I mentioned before.

      It’s not a question of validity, but ethics. If a drug or food manufacturer, or lets say a big company looking to drill for oil, is financing a ‘study,’ there is a clear conflict of interest. BP hired their buddies as inspectors and look how well that turned out for them. As soon as someone has something to gain, you leave the door open for your results to be questioned.

      I’m not sure how things work in Columbia, but perhaps an independent government agency, with no investment one way or the other, should oversee such studies? Until then, however, as long as companies are conducting, sponsoring, and/or overseeing their own studies, bias – implied or intentional – should be avoided at all costs if the results are expected to be taken seriously.


  12. Colin L Beadon

    There is no reason why the nature cannot survive if care it taken. You don’t have to cut down every tree to drill a few wells. In such areas in Trinidad, I have seen so much wild life, even at times, up in the old conventional oil derricks at night, toucans, forest doves and small opossums, and all around us nature lived on, around our feet. It just takes people, who care, and are in a position to enforce the continued survival of nature in every way they possibly can.
    If nature dies, so do we. It is as simple, eventually, as that. It is just that so many of us, in our foolish greed, our foolish insistent need, seem to think we can live without the natural regulation of Gaia, as though the air will always be pure enough to breath, the water safe enough to drink, the soil vibrant enough to produce food. But all living things, all life, all, all life, plays its specific important part. Don’t we see and appreciate that ?

  13. Colin L Beadon

    Always the same shit. Always the comment is awaiting moderation, while the Earth dies around us.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Yup, the moderation delay in blog comments is definitely one of the crises I´m most concerned about.

      Trust me pal – if you saw the quantity of comments I’ve blocked on this post you’d be more grateful for my efforts.

      To those of you who have been blocked – nothing personal. Thanks so much for reading, and feel free to comment again.

  14. soe

    Great, really great.

    But the question is, when someone want to help this animal why we already find him in zoo? Is it the right way to save him?

  15. gallantecology

    It looks like a new struggle will start for this newly accessible peice of land. I wish courage to the environmentalists and the biologists who have the stomach to antagonise. Fighting for the environment is a great thing but a difficult thing to do successfully.

  16. Ginger Leilani Chapin

    My God, why have Governments around the world ignored the call to action for our environment… and to the protection of our last remaining virgin forests from the brutality of the very industries that have caused all of the environmental, horrific disasters since the industrial revolution? Where is “Going Green” going?

  17. Colin L Beadon

    It is a catch 22. We need the energy. The only real energy we have so far, comes from oil and gas.
    The oil and gas now remaining, is in the forests and deep under the seas. Most of the easily accessible was once in the deserts where not a great deal of harm could be done to sand, flora or fauna.
    Now it is a far different story. We are deeply trespassing into the heart of nature. If we fail to protect her, we ourselves will be one of the first to suffer, in huge numbers.
    Since we can’t go on indefinitely taxing nature for what she has below or above ground, we have got to be sensible enough to modify the way we live and demand. There are civilizations, just a few, who learned in the past, how to do this and survive. Read the book ‘Collapse’, by Jared Diamond.
    It is doubtful, with all our modern technology, that we shall accomplish a way to peacefully live with, rather than against, nature, and maintain the lifestyle we insist upon. And so the bitter pill, in the business driven world( instead of in a spiritually drive one) is that we shall have to bear the consequences.

  18. Agatha82

    Congrats on being on Freshly Pressed. What an adorable monkey, but sad that there are only 250 out there. I suppose with the oil company drilling there, that’ll probably finish the last 250, unless we do something about it. Surely it is of scientific interest to investigate this area, but oil is money and money wins all the time…sigh
    When are we going to wake up and realise oil supplies are not everlasting…
    P.S On a seriously childish note…I’ve always loved the name Titi monkey…*chuckles childlishsly*

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      I should probably take this opportunity to poing out that there’s no evidence that these oil companies are going to do anything bad to these monkeys, especially now that the situation is in the public eye. I doubt they even knew about the monkeys until I called for comment on Friday afternoon. Let’s hold off on the condemnations until there’s something to condemn.

      And yes, it is great to write about Titis.

  19. kssomeswara

    ransacking the environment thereby we are making other species on the earth destroyed. We are not understanding the negative effects of such attempts on us and on our future generation. I thought only in India such things are happening. It is tragic to read even developed countries are doing the same and posing as defenders of nature on third world countries.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      There’s no ransacking happening yet in this case, but if you really think India has a worse environmental record than Canada or the USA, you need to wake up. How do you think they got to be so “developed,” by which I guess you mean “rich”? I also wish you wouldn’t use that word “developed.” Development is a linear flow, like from egg to chicken (or egg to adult human). I see no reason to believe that there is some linear flow of progress from poor to rich.

  20. Kevin

    Great writing here. Interesting subject, makes me concerned for the monkeys, and now I’m going to continue reading more into your reports. Keep up the good work, you’ve just gained one more fan.

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