Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

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Monkeys or manatees? Sometimes a hard choice!...Louise makes her decision!


My name is Louise, I’m a 21 year old marine biology graduate from the UK. My love of manatees began when I first saw them on a family holiday to Florida. It was this love that drew me to Wildtracks. Despite being fond of all animals, I had no particular interest in monkeys, hence I was surprised when a few days after my arrival Paul asked how I felt about looking after three baby howler monkeys. Despite being very flattered at being considered for this huge responsibility, I doubted my suitability considering my lack of experience and knowledge of monkeys. My emotions were bitter sweet at this point when I considered how this position would limit my time with the manatees, and (I assumed) prevent my dream of bottle feeding a calf coming true. I was thus ecstatic when it was announced I was to take care of the baby monkeys alongside the two manatee calves Mitch and Lucky. Although my schedule was rather full on, all babies requiring five feeds a day, and the monkeys needing almost constant attention, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

My introduction with the monkeys was gradual, starting with half hour visits accompanied by one of their carers, then lengthening that time, and eventually leaving me alone with them once they felt comfortable with me. The male of the group, Inni, was the most inquisitive, almost immediately jumping on me and proceeding to playfully bite my nose, although sometimes a little too hard. He soon calmed down and it wasn’t long before his bites softened, and he would happily come to greet me. Vicky, the youngest, did not take long to follow suit. It was Maggy, the oldest and quietest of the three that took longest to accept me. I will never forget when she first fell asleep on my lap, and from that moment on it was difficult to get her off it! When the time came for taking them for walks on my own I was apprehensive, worried they would leave me and make for the trees. It felt incredible when I stepped out of the cage with all three of them latched onto me, all in their own positions, Inni always riding on my head. It got to the point where it felt strange to walk without them.

Watching their progress over these two months has been wonderful. They have now been moved into a much larger play cage, which they enjoy immensely. Inni is now getting far too heavy to travel around on my head, although he still insists upon doing so. Maggy’s climbing ability developed considerably, as I discovered to my horror when she abandoned their little climbing tree and swiftly made her way up to the top of the highest available tree without the slightest hesitation. After coaxing her down it was agreed that all climbing must take place within the safety of their play cage!

Volunteering at Wildtracks has been an experience unlike any other, and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to be a part of such an inspirational project. I am already planning my return!


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-12-07 15:47:32   [Link to this article]

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