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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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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.

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 2,208
I should just point out that I did not suggest that this monkey had been stolen from a troupe that had been slaughtered. I have no idea where this monkey came from. My comments have, though been published through a link on the blog.

My concern is that the BTB do not currently train their tour guides as part of the licensing process to be aware of the wildlife laws of Belize. This leads to tourists, such as the kind folks who wrote this blog, being encouraged or at the very least allowed to break the law. I have written to the BTB and hope others will too. If Belize is to promote itself as a responsible tourism destination then these sort of practices need to stop.

Howler monkeys do not make good pets. They either end up dead once they reach sexual maturity through euthanasia or abandonment or they end up living a life of solitary confinement because they cannot be re introduced to the wild and have no monkey skills to allow them to socialise with other captive monkeys.

There is a wonderful woman, Robin Brockett, who specialises in Howler Monkey rehabilitation and is currently setting up a purpose built centre in Belize for that purpose. Hopefully Jack and others like him, being kept as pets or tourist attractions, will not be too old to benefit from this programme once it has been established.

As a tourist, please be aware that it is illegal in most cases and certainly dangerous and poor practice to handle, touch, interfere with or feed ANY wildlife in Belize. On that note, residents should also be aware that it is illegal to own or eep a native parrot species without a license from the Forest Department.
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