The monkeys I got to know in Belize By Primate keeper, Rachel Vass

Primate keeper, Rachel Vass got to go to Belize to assist in the rehabilitation and reintroduction of primates from the area.


“The three animals I spent the most time with were Nicky, Zultan, and Duma.  Nicky, is also a Howler monkey, is approximately 5 months old; he was confiscated by the forestry department of Belize and Wildtracks and came to live at Wildtracks on June 6th, less than a week before I arrived!  A resident in the local village heard him crying from inside a box on the back of a bicycle and contacted the authorities; he was confiscated and taken to Wildtracks to start the rehab and release process.  Unfortunately, when police officers went back to arrest the man who was previously in possession of Nicky, he had run away and was not found.  When Nicky arrived at Wildtracks he was extremely dehydrated and emaciated; needless to say he was terrified of people and was completely untrusting of anyone who went near him.  However, in just a few short weeks he has made dramatic improvements!  He is accepting many kinds of food types very well and is looking much more healthy and happy overall.  He receives small amounts of fruit daily along with a variety of browse (leaves and branches- fig is his favorite) as well as supplemental milk feedings every three to four hours throughout the day.  He is beginning to relax and get to know those of us who worked with him the most and will occasionally play a bit also.  He is still working on his climbing skills and building up muscle, of which he essentially had none, so that he can jump around and really be a “real” monkey!  He is still in his quarantine period so he can not have access to other monkeys yet, but as soon as his time is up he will be joining Sultan as a companion.


Sultan is another Howler who is approximately 8 months old; he was being kept as a pet by a family in Belize and was surrendered to Wildtracks in February, when they learned it was illegal to own a primate as a pet.  He is on the same feeding schedule as Nicky, and is receiving fruit and browse a couple of times a day and milk feedings every three to four hours.  Being used to people has given him a much more trusting attitude and caregivers actually play with him, hold him, and carry him around on their bodies acting as a surrogate mother.  While he still sleeps inside at night, he is much more physically developed than Nicky, and spends a lot of time outside during the day climbing in trees and leaping off of them onto our heads!  He is playful and rowdy with a very confidant “in-your-face” personality.


Duma is a Spider monkey who is approximately 18 months old who also came to Wildtracks in February of this year.  She was previously owned by a family in the nearby village of Sarteneja and was surrendered after she started to mature and became too active and dangerous for the family to handle.  Like Zultan, she is very attached to people since she was a pet for most of her infant life and needs lots of attention throughout the day; she also receives fruit and browse daily as well as supplemental milk three to four times a day.  There are plans for another 2 or 3 Spider monkeys to arrive at Wildtracks in the near future and she will be grouped with them once they finish their quarantine periods.”

By primate keeper, Rachel Vass

Rachel and primate keeper, Helen Boostrom enjoyed their time at Wildtracks immensely.  To read more about their work click here or scroll down.  Their experience was made possible by the Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund.

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