Since Hurricane Iris ravaged
parts of the Stann Creek and
Toledo Districts in October,
News 5's teams have headed
south on numerous occasions,
first to assess the damage and
later to monitor the recovery.
on Tuesday, Reporter
Jacqueline Woods and cameraman George Tillett
once again headed south...and have returned with
the following report.
Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
When hurricane Iris swept over Monkey River Village,
it not only destroyed most of the community's
buildings, but the storm devastated the region's two
main source of income; fishing and tourism. The
village's forest, home for a variety of wildlife including
the Black Howler Monkey, was completely wrecked as
the storm's heavy winds knocked down trees and
stripped the ground of vegetation. The debris covered
three of the community's jungle trails, cutting off
tourists to one of the area's most popular attractions.
Since the trails have been closed, the Monkey River
Tour Guide Association estimates its members have
lost over thirty thousand dollars in revenue and that's
why they've been working hard to regain their
livelihood. Labouring vigorously with machetes and
chainsaws, the men removed tons of logs and
branches from the paths.
Alfonso Zuniga, Chairman, Monkey River Tour
"We actually felt it was something we could not have
completed at the time. But, we had strong willpower
and strong mind and a lot of energy. The morale of
seventeen personnel just came out and put it all and
gave us a wonderful outcome."
"I'm presently walking through Jack Trail. It is one of
the main trails that have just been cleared. It is
expected that once it is reopened to the general
public, the trail will be teeming with tourists, bringing
some much needed income to the village."
The Jack, Coe and Luz trails, are situated along the
Monkey River bank. The only way to access them is by
boat, which turns the journey into an exciting
adventure. During the fifteen minute boat ride, visitors
are almost guaranteed to see a display of wildlife
including birds, iguanas...and of course the fascinating
black howler monkey.
According to tour guide, Ian Cuevas, the animals are
returning home after the monkeys were displaced by
the massive storm.
Ian Cuevas, Tour Guide, Monkey River Village
"They start getting back together now in troops,
because they hang out in troops and are territorial.
They've start finding back their troops and their
It is not known just how many of the monkeys may
have died during the hurricane, but we did pass the
remains of one along the trail. The association
believes it was injured in the storm and died
sometime later. But tour guide association chairman,
Alfonso Zuniga says from what they have seen, he
believes a healthy population remains in the area.
"The largest troop that we saw within the area itself,
was eight members. Just before the hurricane, we had
troops of up to about fifteen. Within this area, we
have about eight different troops, just within this
small portion along the river. They are actually
regrouping and the vegetation is pretty good, I'd say
excellent to the day of the hurricane."
Because the jungle's canopy is no longer present, it
was not difficult spotting the monkeys on our walk.
While it will take some time for the forest to grow
back, three months after Iris, there is already a lot of
greenery visible in the area.
"The wildlife is still around, you can still see whatever
you used to see, there's nothing that you don't see
anymore. Right now, you could see more because you
have a much wider view of the jungle."
In the village itself, rebuilding work continues.
Fourteen of the homes have been rebuilt, while five
remain under construction. Some of the restaurants
have been reopened and one hotel is already in
operation. Some tourists have visited the village, but
not as many as usual for this time of the year. Today,
the fishermen who lost most of their equipment in the
storm are gradually getting back to work, but the men
say it has not been easy.
Barry Garbutt, Fisherman, Monkey River Village
"This is what hurricane Iris did to us. Messed up our
boats and the government has not helped us with the
boat so we have to struggle and get back."
Village chairwoman, Eleanor Sandlin says because
both their fishing and tourism activities were severely
affected, there is not much the villagers can do at this
time to make money...but she is asking for some help
from the necessary authorities.
Eleanor Sandlin, Chairwoman, Monkey River Village
"The lobster, the fishing is very slim for the people
because they have lost a lot. I'm still hoping to get
some help through the co-operatives for them to
rebuild their lobster pots for the next season, their
fishing lines, rods and all of this that goes along with
Despite the setback caused by Iris, most villagers
believe that in time all the inhabitants of Monkey
River will recover and prosper.
Today marked the official opening of the visitor
trails at Monkey River.