On a hidden lagoon a few miles from Sarteneja Village on the mainland of Belize is an incredible operation. Wildtracks is a Manatee and Primate Rehabilitation Program run by an amazing couple, staffed by a tribe of volunteers and employees and run, almost solely, on donations. It’s a large property with a main house, pools, lagoon, habitats and cages, cabanas, kitchens and…the residents. Manatees, big and tiny, monkeys of all ages, 4 big dogs, deer and quite a bit more.
We were there on an important mission. A few weeks ago, we set out to put together a care package from the monkeys. They are caring for a handful of orphan howler monkeys that need a special kind of milk. These tots were brought into Wildtracks to get healthy and then work towards release with a monkey troop. They were stolen from their moms (often the mom is shot) to be sold as a pet…one was found on the jungle floor starving and covered with ants…
OWNING A MONKEY IS ILLEGAL IN BELIZE. And for SO many reasons, a pet monkey is a horrible idea.
This facility is not open to the general public – and for sound reason. The mission of Wildtracks is to return each and every animal to the wild. Familiarity and becoming overly comfortable with humans is not part of the program.
But let me stop talking and show you the pictures we took at WildTracks. But first, let me thank EVERYONE who donated on Paypal and dropped off Enfamil 1 baby formula for these little guys. We raised almost $300US and bought 2+ cases of the formula…and all of the messages? They were so darn cute.
But not quite as cute as the pics my friend Maya took of the baby monkeys.
Wildtracks was started in 1990 and operated as a manatee rescue for years. Manatees are hurt and killed by boats in Belize – primarily in the Belize River as boats bring visitors on tours. Almost 20 manatees have been killed this year alone in Belize.
When a manatee is hurt or separated from her mother…she is brought to Wildtracks.
We got to meet Baby Hope. Who was probably born during Hurricane Earl (last August) and then washed across the highway into a fenced lot by the storm. Separated from her mom, at 28 lbs (probably premature), you can view this INCREDIBLE rescue…
She now weighs 128lbs and is absolutely, try not to tear up, beautiful.
Super curious…man is this animal cute. We took a tour of some of the facilities and learned about HOW MUCH WORK THEY DO to get these animals in shape and back in the wild.
We went to view the spider monkeys. There are two types of primate in Belize now: spider and howler monkeys. Wildtracks has been having great success at rehabilitating howlers, integrating them with troops and introducing them back into forest reserve.
Spider monkeys are much trickier.
The younger monkeys still need contact.
They all were curious but cautious around visitors. We didn’t linger too long…
Just a few will stay with Wildtracks on a longer term basis – for mental and physical reasons or this capuchin monkey…who was a pet and surrendered to the forest department. White headed Capuchins are no longer found in Belize and release, therefore, isn’t possible.
She loves being groomed and causing lots of trouble.
More monkey milk!
And then we visited the nursery very quickly. And…good grief. Such beautiful babies and SO MUCH WORK!
Look! They love the milk! (Which, like the baby manatees food, is mixed with all sorts of vitamins and additional nutrients to get them as healthy as possible.)
The team at Wildtracks also works tirelessly on community outreach and education – the ultimate goal is to put an end to the monkey pet trade in Belize.
For tons of great videos and information on Wildtracks – from what they do to how you can donate or volunteer, check out their website.
Visiting amazing people like this – working so passionately with this kind of goal in mind – is BY far one of the coolest parts of my job. (See my posts below about the Belize Zoo, The Belize Bird Rescue and the Scarlet 6)
PLEASE! If you see anyone poaching, hunting, selling or keeping a monkey as a pet, please alert the Forest Department – both for the welfare of the animal and of the humans.
Monkeys are not pets – they are part of the amazing wildlife of Belize.