Liz and I recently posted a detailed story about our encounter howler monkeys at Caracol. It contained lots of details of a particularly unique visit ith with Jack, a juvenile howler monkey cared for by one of the restoration workers at Caracol. Almost immediately, this post was responded to by concerned local activists within Belize. They alerted us to the impending tragedy that is this little Monkey.
When we came across Jack and his "owner," we were told the little monkey fell out of the tree and that once this happens, these infants/juveniles, are abandoned by their mothers. Thus, Jack was actually being rescued and cared for until he was old enough to return to the jungle canopy. We were informed by Colette Case of Be Kind Belize, a humane education program, and by Jerry Larder of Belize Bird Rescue that this is a terrible lie. In fact, we were informed that the little monkey was likely stripped from its mother's dead arms after she, and very likely other members of the pack, were murdered. It appears that the "falling out of the tree" story is just a myth told to naive tourists such as Liz and I.
Tourists, such as ourselves, are often very excited to see such foreign and exotic animals and the chance to take photos up close is very exciting. Liz and I snapped numerous photos, totally ignorant that we were, in our own little way, supporting a terrible and inhumane practice. We were never encouraged to tip the caretaker or anything like that, but we've surmised from this that the behavior is encouraged unofficially because of the positive response from tourists. I just wish that one of the other tour guides, or the Belize Defense Force soldier or Police Officer were more aware of the law.
Apparently, few are aware of the law and Belize lacks the law enforcement power to prevent it from happening. Belize has only one forestry officer for the entire country - simply too much land for one person to patrol. It's a tragedy in and of itself, but becomes more horrible when one realizes little Jack's ultimate fate.
Apparently, Howler Monkeys can become very aggressive, especially males, as they reach sexual maturity; about 4-5 years of age. At this time, they are no longer cute, cuddly and photogenic so they are often euthanized. If you're keeping track, the death toll is now at one entire group (possibly as many as 12-18) killed for a few lousy photographs.
Liz and I have taken the photos off this website. We do not wish to be associated with such immoral behavior and feel that this post should be a preliminary step in voicing our opinions about the horrible practice. We've been encouraged to contact the Belize Press and share with them our experience and renewed understanding so that maybe others can be made aware. Unfortunately, in Belize, ignorance of the law is grounds for dismissal of charges. If more are educated, then that may discourage this behavior and prevent others from capitalizing on this technicality.
A special thank you goes to Jerry and Colette for bringing this to our attention. http://belizeantravel.com/2009/11/fun-monkeys-word-caution/comment-page-1/