Wildtracks: Conservation, Research and Education

Wildtracks blog

Working with the howler babies - Charmaine's thoughts on the Wildtracks nursery trio


My name is Charmaine and many years ago, through a simple twist of fate, I entered the fascinating world of primates which has now taken me on the path to Wildtracks. I have been volunteering for the past 15 years at the Toronto Zoo education department, with opportunities to assist with husbandry of the orang-utans and gorillas there, which peaked my interest in primates. I am now involved with a local primate sanctuary as well as volunteering yearly at a rehabilitation center for orphaned and displaced orang-utans in Borneo. I have also been very fortunate to be part of Dr. Jane Goodall’s team during her last few lectures in Toronto.

Over the years, I have taken care of many different types of primates, but have been fascinated by the howler monkey, which seemed somewhat elusive to me. I saw the beautiful and informative Widtracks website and was so impressed with their work, I knew I was ready to be part of something amazing. My time here so far has been beyond my expectations and every day is an adventure. I was originally placed with the pre-release howler monkey babies and was able to get acquainted with these magnificent primates with their haunting, roaring call that reverberates through the forest, as well as helping with the rescued manatees. After my first week with the pre-release group, a gap appeared in Nursery Unit volunteers, and I was placed for the rest of my time here with the three youngest infants, who need constant care.

I wake up eagerly every morning at 6:15 to prepare food and milk for my three charges, Innie the mischievous and comical little boy, Maggie who is very curious, a little shy and protective of the smallest youngest howler, named Vicki who is very determined and confident. Each of their personalities are so obviously different, even at this young age while watching them wrestle and play with each other. This is a very important phase of the infants lives as they learn to cement friendships which can carry them through to their final release in the forest. Observing each of them while they explore and learn is very rewarding as you feel part of something far greater than one can imagine. They are slightly goofy with their scampering gait, the thumping sound which they make when running on the ground and their antics in the branches up high. They love to soak up the afternoon sun while resting on my lap, and watching them in peaceful slumber were beautiful moments for me.

I am able to take them on sightseeing journeys around the center during the day so they can visually explore the area, and become accustomed to being moved. They cling, as they would to their mother – each in their own favourite place. Maggie holds the prime spot while sitting on my head for the best view possible, Innie is always situated at the front and Vicki on my shoulder, each with their tail wrapped around me for security. We take short walks around the periphery of the forest and the lagoon where the gentle rescued manatee Rameses resides. It is wonderful that Wildtracks feels this is a very important part of their day as it seems to build their confidence. They love to listen to the sounds and look at all the sights with a sense of wonder. It is a sad reality that many of these infants are having to be raised without their mothers due to the trade in wild animals, and that human intervention is needed to help them learn how to be monkeys and manatees again. Many have been severely traumatized and their rehabilitation can be a slow process, but the exceptional staff help to mend not only their bodies, but their minds as well, to prepare them for their life in the forest (or, in the case of manatees, back at sea).

The devotion, love, hard work and education is very evident at Wildtracks. I have seen Paul and Zoe in the morning after some sleepless nights taking care of sick infant howlers in the Nursery Unit, which is adjacent to their living quarters so that they can monitor them nightly and give them medication as needed. What Paul and Zoe continue to do with these remarkable and endearing creatures is inspirational and hopeful. They work tirelessly to give them the chance to fulfill their destiny and truly live the lives they are meant to live. I am so grateful to have been part of their journey and thankful to Wildtracks for helping these animals return to where they belong. I also look forward to seeing their progress when I return in a year - to see the infants growing up howler!


Published by: Zoe Walker at 2014-12-29 12:50:25   [Link to this article]

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