Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildtracks blog

Something about Charlie.....Caryn shares her thoughts on her work with this charismatic spider monkey


With an influx of semi-adult / adult spider monkeys, we have had to place several of the males in holding cages as we build new enclosures. In the wild, the male groups are very tightly bonded, consisting of related individuals - brothers, uncles, cousins.... This makes it difficult to place two unrelated male spider monkeys in the same enclosures, leading to several male monkeys being housed in individual holding cages. As social animals, it is hard for them to live apart from others, and they can become increasingly frustrated, particularly in the smaller, temporary cages. In the interim, whilst the new enclosures are being built,volunteers work relatively closely with these individuals to give them a focus and reduce their levels of frustration. Caryn has been allocated the task of working with Charlie and Rafiki...

I was first introduced to Wildtracks one year ago while I was visiting Sarteneja. I have been involved with animal rescue and rehabilitation most of my life but never had a hands on opportunity to work with manatees or monkeys. When I met with Paul, the director, and he offered me the opportunity to come and volunteer, I knew I had to make it happen.

One year later, here I am entrenched in the everyday world of monkey and manatee care. I initially was given a general orientation and introduced to all the animals in residence at Wildtracks. Volunteers are matched with the animals they care for by interest, personality, and length of stay. I was matched with the “Front Spider Monkeys”: Rafiki, Charlie and the pair Frisky and Frolic. They are all adult spider monkeys: three males and one female. Everyone except Rafiki will be released into the wild when they are ready. Rafiki has a severe spinal scoliosis and cannot fend for himself. He will remain at Wildtracks. My special chore aside from cleaning and feeding these four is to socialize both Charlie and Rafiki. It is perfect for me because it is hard for me to not touch and talk to monkeys.

I love them all, but Charlie is special.

Charlie has intense eyes and white markings on his face that make him look like he is always smiling. He had a terrible life prior to Wildtracks. He was kept chained to a peccary (wild pig) pen and sustained two peccary bites that got severely infected. Despite what must have been extremely painful puncture wounds, he allowed Paul to treat his wounds daily. He loves being around people. Everyday I spend time sitting with him and telling him stories about the jungle, and freedom and beautiful lady monkeys. He holds onto my hands or my shoulders and tries to get as close to me as possible by pushing out his chest. The enclosure mesh separates Charlie and me because adult spider monkeys can be unpredictable. It doesn’t stop us from feeling intensely connected. Charlie vocalizes with me when he becomes excited. At times I feel Charlie can look into my soul. He touches my heart. I have been rewarded by having Charlie become less anxious when I am around. He looks more comfortable and doesn’t startle as easily. After one month with Charlie it will be very hard to leave him. I think the separation will be difficult for both of us. I know he will be given another volunteer to care for him who will take my place. I know they too will fall in love with him and help him continue with his rehabilitation.

Charlie makes me believe that he will not forget me, but that may just be what I want to believe. I know I will never forget Charlie. Caring for him and understanding the struggles he has already overcome, and the struggles he has ahead of him will keep Charlie in my heart and my mind forever. I hope to return to find Charlie released and happy in a troop he can share his love with.


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-01-28 13:36:55   [Link to this article]

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