Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildtracks blog

The Realities of Rehabilitation - and the silver linings (Emma)


Today I would like to take the blog in a bit of a different direction then usual. A sad reality of this line of work is that, try as you may, you can’t save every animal that comes into the Centre. Thankfully, in Wildtracks history, this disheartening occasion comes few and far between. While most of the animals being rehabilitated here are confiscations from the illegal pet trade, and do often arrive showing the signs of ignorance, neglect, and suffering, every once in a while we have an arrival that shows just how deliberately cruel and violent humankind can be.

On March 7th, I accompanied Paul on a trip to Belize City to pick up a young male howler. We had been anxiously awaiting this pick-up for a few days, as the initial information received made it unclear whether he would even make the two hour drive from where he was picked up by the Belize Forest Department to the Animal Medical Centre in Belize City.

The Animal Medical Centre had battled to save his life, stabilising his injuries and rehydrating his body. Heavily sedated, the large, beautiful male was first loaded into a kennel, then into our car. Small groans and low rumbles issued from him as we began our journey home. These noises were important - they confirmed that he was still alive. After a while we pulled into a gas station and as the lights lit up the back I turned around. The sedation had begun to wear off and he lifted his head to me. His right eye was a ball of red, swollen and painful. His upper lip split, with a broken tooth showing through. All over his head scabs and deep, unhealed gashes were visible, his face a virtual battle field. The sedative given to him was for his comfort, not our safety and ease of transportation, for even without sedation he could move little more than his head.

After arriving home at Wildtracks, he was settled in, given a warm, cozy spot with 24 hour surveillance, and medication. After a rough first night full of seizures, it became apparent that he also appeared to be developing pneumonia. Medicated and made comfortable, he was placed in the sunshine, an essential part of a howler’s day, for the first time since he had been injured. Due to his severe head trauma, he was unable to take in liquids and food, so an IV was ordered urgently, with the assistance of the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network, and placed on the bus to Sarteneja immediately.

Five minutes before his IV solutions arrived, this amazing, once vibrant boy took his last breath.

This is one of the hardest moments I have ever had to deal with. We at Wildtracks care, with everything that we have, for these animals. Every day we see proof of their intelligence, personality, compassion, and soul. To see this beautiful animal reduced to nothing by the actions of humans sent a wave of despair over the team. We fight, literally every day, to change things, whether through the direct rehabilitation of the animals, education in schools, or the involvement of community, we strive to move forward, and this felt like a giant step back.

You may have heard about this male howler in the news. He is the victim of the Orange Walk monkey beating. Students at the Agricultural School in Orange Walk are reported to have stoned him out of a tree, beat him, then tied him up and paraded him in front the school. While not all of the details of this awful story have been revealed, photographic and video evidence has come to light ensuring that this will not be swept under the rug. The Belize Forest Department issued a statement saying “ The Forest Department does not take the incident lightly and will be laying charges against the offenders. Such cruelty is appalling and will not be tolerated”, and we could not be more supportive. What happened is in no way, shape, or form, acceptable. And if, at the very least, his death brings a very serious change in the way people look and treat monkeys, it will not have been in vain.

Luckily for us, the bad moments here at Wildtracks are far outweighed by the good. On the very same drive to pick up the male howler monkey, we received a phone call about a small baby monkey found on a trail in Cockscomb. This extremely lucky little howler, less than a single handful of monkey, was rushed to Dangriga to be placed immediately on a plane to Belize City by the Belize Audubon Society Cockscomb staff. She made the very same drive up, and she, our silver lining, is doing wonderfully. A mere week and a half old, Bean had no teeth and a still healing umbilical wound upon arrival. After a few struggling nights, she is getting stronger by the minute. She has gained 44 grams and now has four teeth coming in!

I look forward to continue sharing all of the struggles and successes we have here at Wildtracks with you, keep reading for more updates on all of the wonderful animals here!

Published by: Zoe Walker at 2013-03-18 10:59:02   [Link to this article]

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