Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

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Being accepted (Derek and the 'special' monkeys)


Hi! I'm Derek, and have been here at Wildtracks for 5 weeks now. At home, I work as a Marine Mammal Naturalist and ocean guide.

There is so much that you learn here about the manatees and monkeys, but the thing that hit me personally is the steps they take towards accepting you! I've been working with the 'special monkeys" - Rafiki and Nikki, who are both non-releasables, and the famous Izzie.

I'll explain ......... being a (ahem) larger guy, many of the monkeys appeared at first to be quite wary of me. My first introduction to Rafiki, a hunchback spider monkey, consisted of Paul and I walking towards the cage, and Rafiki screeching in alarm, and scrambling to the far corner. He seemed so concerned Paul thought I must look like someone from his past.

During the rest of the day, I made a point of talking gently to him each time I passed his cage. By the next day, he would come to the cage edge and chatter at me, encouraging me to come closer. Soon he was quite comfortable and placing his back to the cage, hoping I would groom him. This was followed by more and more attention through the cage.

The next day I got some troubling news from home and as hard as I was tying not to show it, it was getting me down a bit. Rafiki coaxed me to his cage and reached out with both arms to draw me close. (This is an action that can only be done with Rafiki as he is non-releasable... other monkeys are not allowed to do this!) . His heartfelt acceptance was just what I needed!

I'll also always remember the first time Izzie snuggled with me and wouldn't let me out of her cage ........and the first time Nikki settled down and sat on my lap! There are many other examples of these acceptance steps, but I won't go on and on. They all make you feel a little bit more at home here every day!

As a side note....... if you're a future volunteer I have one great piece of advise! Leave your fancy-dancy hightech raingear and jackets at home! They won't work here! Basic medium duty, low tech jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof will prevent you from eventually giving up and wearing a garbage bag. That is the most important thing I've learned about packing as I plan for my return to Wildtracks!


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2013-12-05 10:06:22   [Link to this article]

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