Monkeys go wild…
A compulsory part of my Bachelor study program “Environmental Biology” was a study semester and an internship abroad. I chose to go to Belize, CA, and after I finished the semester I became a volunteer for the Wildlife Care Center of Belize (WCCB). This Center was established in 1998 by Robin Brockett and is a rehabilitation and research facility for ex-captive howler (Alouatta pigra) and spider (Ateles geoffroyi) monkeys. Although the Wildlife Protection Act of 1981 prohibits the sale of monkeys, the pet trade is a highly profitable industry in Belize. Monkeys, brought to the Center by the Forest Department, undergo approximately one year of intensive rehabilitation before being released back into the wild. The rehabilitation process closely follows the guidelines established by the IUCN. The wildlife center is not open to the public in order to ensure that the monkeys are not exposed to disease or further stress.
My position required designing enrichment, applying operant conditioning, monitoring behaviour, administrating medication and preparing specialized diet. After I finished my volunteer work in 2005 I came back in 2006 and assisted in the successful release of four Howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) that I took care of the previous year. It was great to see those monkeys out in the wild and I really enjoyed living in the beautiful tropical rainforest. But as wonderful as this all may sound, you have to be aware of where you are. So getting bitten by thousands of ticks during the dry season or by mosquitos during the rainy season and carrying fly larvae around under the skin of my head was a part of this bush world, too. But that is probably what makes it an unforgettable experience. Plus the monkeys are still seen and the joined a wild troop. So how great is this? =)