Howler Monkey Rescue
Every year hundreds of howler monkeys and other wild animals in Costa Rica are electrocuted on uninsulated power lines and transformers. In fact, electrocution is the number one killer of howler monkeys in Costa Rica.
Most electrocutions occur in rural areas. Sadly the monkeys don’t know the difference between electrical wires and natural vines and will often travel across wires to get to feeding grounds. This is a particularly serious issue in areas of deforestation where monkeys have no choice but to travel on the wires.
A monkey only has to touch two live wires to be electrocuted. However the main problem is caused by the high voltage electrical transformers attached to the wires. The monkeys travel along the wires in search of food but eventually have to cross a transformer to reach the wire on the other side. The transformers are extremely dangerous - many parts of them can deliver a deadly jolt of electricity to anything that touches them. Tragically, the monkeys don’t sense the danger until it’s too late. The shock is incredibly painful and causes horrific burns and often muscular spasms so the monkey can’t let go and sometimes even catches fire. Even worse, when a member of the troop cries out in pain, the rest of the troop will rush to help, often leading to several family members being electrocuted and dying.
Most of the howler monkeys that survive electrical burns are infants that were clinging to their mothers when they were electrocuted. The mother absorbs most of the current while the babies suffer burns on their hands, tail and any other body part in direct contact with her. Some are lucky enough to escape with only minor burns.
Refuge for Wildlife - Fundación Albergue de Animales de Nosara
In January 2017 we announced our commitment to support Refuge for Wildlife in Nosara, Costa Rica by contributing funds and raising awareness of its vital work. The Refuge shares IAR’s commitment to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured, displaced and orphaned wildlife. It takes in wildlife from all over Costa Rica and many of its patients are very young orphaned howler monkeys whose mothers have been electrocuted.
The Refuge’s emergency response team of staff and volunteers have the experience and expertise to rescue monkeys from transformers and electrical wires using specialist equipment.
The babies are often badly burnt and traumatised by the death of their mothers. They are given round the clock treatment and care in the Refuge clinic. The vet and the rest of the team are experienced in dealing with electrical burns which sometimes require the amputation of decaying limbs and parts of tails. However, usually the best treatment is thorough cleaning of the wounds, pain relief, antibiotics and silver sulfadiazine burn cream. The infant howlers cope extraordinarily well with disabilities and, thanks to the team’s expertise, usually recover with little to no scarring.
Adult animals that need ongoing care are quarantined for a period of time before being moved to outdoor enclosures where they continue to be monitored and receive medical evaluation. As soon as they are deemed fit enough, adult animals are returned to the jungle, while infant howler monkeys and other young animals are raised in the Refuge’s nursery until they are ready to move to outdoor enclosures at about 10-12 months old.
The aim is to create new family groups in preparation for the animals’ return to the wild.
The goal for every animal that arrives at Refuge for Wildlife is to return it to the jungle as quickly as possible. At the age of 16-24 months a newly formed family of young monkeys will be transferred to a release centre to begin their reintroduction. This stage of the process usually takes another 18-24 months.
Other young animals and birds are released in areas identified as the best for them to survive and to thrive.
As well as assisting with the running costs of the Refuge, IAR is looking forward to supporting the further expansion of the release programme and the setting up of post-release monitoring.
Stop the Shocks
Electrocutions are a country-wide problem but most wildlife deaths from electrocution occur in rural areas like Nosara.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Refuge’s Stop the Shocks programme and ICE, the local electrical service provider, most of the wires in the Playas de Nosara area were replaced with insulated cables many years ago. All this hard work means that today monkeys in the area can travel safely along many kilometres of electrical wire.
However, there are still many areas where uninsulated wires are a problem.
As well as rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured wildlife, Refuge for Wildlife’s Stop the Shocks Committee is dedicated to raising funds to purchase and install wildlife protection equipment.