This post is written by Houston Zoo primate keeper, Helen Boostrom, who is in Belize right now. She is being supported by the staff conservation fund to do field work with Howler Monkeys in Belize. Please go here to learn more about the staff conservation fund. We will post these updates of Helen’s work as we get them, so stay tuned!
The day starts with a trip to the uppermost part of the rain forest canopy. Since it is the beginning of the rainy season in Belize, most nights have a few showers. The howlers are still in the process of figuring out which trees provide the most cover from the rain and so are a little damp. Lying on a high branch in the sun provides some warmth and a chance to dry out. While there they may grab a few leaves or fruits to snack on, but once they have dried out the real foraging begins. The howlers will spend most of the day alternating between foraging for leaves and fruit and exploring their new environment. When moving on familiar paths the howlers are quite confident and move easily through the trees. When they embark on an exploration of a new area of the forest they tend to pick their way through the trees carefully. It is important that they stay fairly high up in the branches as they are more likely to run into predators the lower they venture. It is also important to avoid rotten branches or ones that will not support their weight to prevent a long fall to the forest floor. An important part of the rehabilitation process for primates confiscated from the illegal pet trade like Agatha, Bonnie, and Clyde is that they learn these vital skills before they are released back into the wild.
The day of exploration is broken up by either one long nap in the middle of the day or two shorter naps, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. There are also several opportunities for play throughout day. Playing with another howler monkey is always fun, but if no one else is in the mood swinging by your tails and playing with nearby branches and vines will have to do. As the light begins to fade signaling the end of the day, the howlers find a sturdy place to sleep. Their current favorite resting place is in the center of a palm tree. All three can find a secure, sturdy place to sleep there and the giant leaves offer some protection from the weather.
To read previous post of Helen’s work in Belize go here or scroll down. And stay tuned for more exciting stories straight from Belize!