Screen_Shot_2014-01-16_at_8.56.08_PMWhen humans and wildlife share the same area, problems are often bound to happen. Unfortunately it is often the wildlife that has to suffer the consequences. And with a specially designed program, that is where Wildtracks, a rehab center for primates and manatees, comes in. The center provides a temporary sanctuary for monkeys and other wildlife casualties that have been taken out of the wild and kept in captivity or are being used as pets. Belize is home to two species of primate – the Yucatán black howler monkey and Geoffroy’s spider monkey.

 

Both are considered globally endangered, and Belize’s populations are being pressured by increasing tropical forest clearance, and capture of young animals for the illegal wildlife trade. It is common knowledge that wild animal species do not make good household pets. And tonight, Reporter Maria Novelo takes a look at how the Wildtracks rehabilitation center plays an important role in helping to alleviate a great deal of this problem, by providing the much needed service to the abused animal wildlife, the communities, public and Government at large.


Maria Novelo – Reporting


With a global population of approximately 8000 monkeys, 50 percent of these primates can be found in Belize’s lush forest. And as a consequence, the illegal Pet Trade is significantly impacting Belize’s monkey populations; it’s a horrific reality that is crippling the rich diversification of Belize’s wildlife. In this respect, Wildtracks Manatee and Primate Rehabilitation Center in the outskirts of Sarteneja Village targets former pet primates with the view of returning them to the wild.


Paul Walker – Director of Wild Tracks


“The primary goal is to end the pet trade in Belize, it is illegal to keep any pet monkey, the forest department is enforcing the law in that direction and increasing its public awareness to advice the public that; (a) the monkeys are protected under Belize laws, (b) it is illegal to keep them as pets and (c) it is actually very dangerous to families health to have a monkey as a pet because of the number of diseases that can be transmitted to both adults and children from pet monkeys. In order to end the pet trade it is all to know that pet monkeys being confiscated or surrendered for rehabilitation and then returned back to the wild population which means we have to expand programs from the original days when the previous manager would have three of four monkeys toward we having 38 monkeys in rehabilitation an probably ten or twelve coming over the next three or four months so it be one of significant expansion to cater for that serve which require to bring down the illegal trade and endangered monkeys in Belize.”


When a pet is surrendered to Wildtracks, though a complex process, there are three primary tasks in the rehab of these primates.


Paul Walker – Director of Wild Tracks


“When you see a spider monkey being chained for in some decades which not a very nice existence for an animal that should be moving many miles a day through the forest canopy and a lot of time you can think of an animal like that chained and immobile it is not a nice thought, in fact just this afternoon I got a report that two spider monkeys that were being chained and probably beaten which is uncommon in most cases people are not being abusive to them this is a rare instance where we got a report where they were beating two spider monkeys because they are biting.”

Each animal is eventually put into a group with other monkeys and once they become a cohesive group, they are ready to move on to the next step. This next step is the pre-release area.


Paul Walker – Director of Wild Tracks


“This is where they learn majority of the skills they need to live in the forest so how to climb through trees rather than cages is really hard to learn the flexibility so here they learn which branches will take the weight which are going to snap, how to plotter roots and get from this tree to that tree, where the sun is because they like the sun bathe it is also where they learn the communication because as a troop, they have to be released as a troop and keep together because if they separate them they would most like be eaten by predator so with many eyes they keep as a troop and that means they have to know where they are and stay together because otherwise what we see is that they would be feeding on a tree some will move off and some will not realize that the other have moved off and they have to learn that they have to keep together and so all of that is learnt on a pre-released enclosure.”


Of the 38 primates being housed at Wildtracks; 13 are spider monkeys, 24 are howler monkeys.  Walker says while it may be a thankless job, the experience is rewarding.


Paul Walker – Director of Wild Tracks


“Out of the 59 monkeys that have come in so far we have 4 deaths but when you get a very sick baby monkey that terrified with people to see an animal like turn around and within a matter of weeks they become a healthy, happy monkey and to know that that will become a wild monkey for two and a half years as it is released into the world that’s the reward.”


According to Paul Walker, the Director of Wild Tracks, more public awareness is needed to curb the instances of the illegal pet trade.


Maria Novelo - Reporter


Do you project along with the forest department curve that or alleviate all those senses that it doesn’t occur?”

 

Paul Walker – Director of Wild Tracks


“I am optimistic within two years, our goal is by the end of 2015 to kill the monkeys and I really see no reason why that should not be possible.  Belize is a country with law abiding in most respects, a calm country it is not like Guatemala or Honduras where people will take up arms if they object something so I think the forest department has got his public awareness campaign to inform the public; (a) about the legality about keeping and (b) about the health risk of spider monkeys and (c) to see the options to surrender or have them confiscated so I then I think people realizes this is absolutely will continue.”


Wildtracks works closely with the Wildlife Programme of the Forest Department (Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development). The Wildlife Programme is charged with the responsibility of protecting wildlife from hunting and other extractive activities, and enforces regulations for the sustainable management and protection of wildlife. It also works to improve the publics’ appreciation of wildlife and its role in the environment. Wildtracks is working towards the sustainable future of the natural resources for the people of Belize, through conservation, research, education and sustainable development.

 

The Primate Rehabilitation Centre is one of two national rehabilitation facilities hosted under the Conservation and Research Programme. Activities under the programme areas are financed through the Support Programme – through volunteer support, income generation, grants and donations.

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