Authorities on Ambergris Caye, acting on information received, launched an operation at a residence in the southwestern tip of the San Pedrito area of San Pedro Town where a spider monkey was rescued. The adult female spider monkey was being held captive and is believed to be in very poor condition and extremely underweight for its size. Scientifically known as Ateles Geoffroyi, spider monkeys are classified as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and in Belize they are protected.
The operation was carried out by members of the San Pedro Police Department, the Tourism Police Unit and American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) on behalf of the Belize Forestry Department. According to Cherie Chenot-Rose, research biologist at ACES, the monkey was tied to a rope that was fastened to a metal chain hooked to a small little shed in a yard. “The police noticed the monkey chained outside, two iguanas and some other miscellaneous wildlife, not yet identified in the person’s home… it is illegal to have any wildlife in Belize without the proper permits from the Belize Forestry Department,” said Chenot-Rose. More importantly is that the Forestry Department does not issue permits to keep any species of monkey as a pet. The rescued spider monkey was transported to the Wildtracks facility in Sarteneja Village in the Corozal District where it will be treated and rehabilitated.
Speaking to The San Pedro Sun, Paul Walker, one of the Director of Wildtracks gave an overview of the spider monkey’s condition. “The condition of the adult female spider monkey was very poor. Very, very emaciated from long term inadequate care, inadequate diet and lack of veterinary support and it is probably the most emaciated monkey that has come to our care. The monkey was skeletally thin and grossly underweight – it has very poor hair condition which indicates heavy parasite load,” outlined Walker. He said what may have contributed to the bad health condition of the monkey is the lack of adequate care. “It is illegal to keep monkeys as a pet in Belize. They are special animals that require specialist care, and homeowners are not in the position to offer the kind of care that a monkey needs to be healthy. This monkey is a shining example of what happens to a healthy monkey when taken out of the wild and kept as a pet. They eventually get sick and often die,” he emphasized.
It is estimated that the monkey is between four to five years old but because of the very poor health condition of the monkey, it may take a few months to estimate its age. “It is fair to say that the monkey is 40% below the weight she should be for a monkey of her size. She is basically a skeleton covered in skin at this moment,” described Walker. A healthy female spider monkey could weight about 16 pounds but the one rescued on Ambergris Caye is far below 10 pounds.
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