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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

We return three howler monkeys to freedom in the forest.

On 19 July our team at the Refuge in Nosara, Costa Rica, released three adult howler monkeys who had undergone several months’ rehabilitation. Charlotte and Iggy had both been attacked by dogs and Star had been electrocuted.

As all three monkeys were found in heavily populated areas that are dangerous for wildlife, we relocated them to a more suitable area where human development cannot harm them.

All three were very calm during their journey to freedom, but once the car stopped and they could smell the trees and the stream nearby, they made it plain that they were eager to get out of their kennels! All three of them made a grunting sound as they were released. This is a gentle warning to “stay back or I’ll get aggressive.”

Immediately after they were released, Charlotte and Star ran to each other and stayed close together during the entire time they were being watched. Iggy, being the male of the group, kept a distance so he could watch over his ladies. All of them stayed very close to the release site and lay down in the branches looking incredibly relaxed and happy to be back in the forest where they belong. 

IAR CEO Alan Knight said: “Congratulations to the Refuge team on the successful rehabilitation and release of these three monkeys. Our aim is always to release animals back into the wild wherever possible and we’re delighted that Charlotte, Iggy and Star are free once more and safely back in their natural habitat. Thanks to the medical team, their injuries have healed beautifully and they are fit and healthy enough to fend for themselves once more.”

There has been an increase in dog attacks in recent months. This is because deforestation and development have forced arboreal wildlife to cross roads and properties on the ground to reach their habitat. Charlotte sustained several deep bite punctures and a broken shoulder when she was attacked.

The dogs that attacked her were not strays, they were pets that followed their instincts to chase prey. The Refuge team recommends that local residents keep their pets in an enclosed area and move them into the house when monkeys are around the property. Fortunately, in Charlotte’s case, the dogs were small so the bite wounds weren’t too deep and they healed relatively quickly.

Charlotte was prescribed “cage-rest” to help the fracture in her shoulder heal. Once the fracture had mended, Charlotte was moved to an outside enclosure where she could practise climbing and regain her strength. It wasn’t long before she was joined by Iggy. Iggy was at the Refuge for several months. He was attacked by a large dog and his recovery took longer than expected because the deep bites on his hip became infected.

Bites from dogs become infected very easily due to the high concentration of bacteria in canine saliva and even with antibiotic injections, Iggy’s wound became very infected and needed to be drained of pus every day. Once his wounds had healed completely, Iggy joined Charlotte in a large outdoor enclosure so that he could stretch his legs and start moving around properly again.

From day one Iggy was very relaxed around Charlotte and loved the new enclosure. He could be found lying around and munching on leaves each day, really enjoying the fresh air and sunshine after so long in the clinic. Charlotte and Iggy had almost matching wounds as dogs tend to attack in the same manner each time.

Bites are usually found on the lower back from when the monkey is trying to run away and then on the neck from where the dog attempts to kill the monkey. Both Iggy and Charlotte now have matching scars in these areas. A few weeks later Star joined them. She had been badly electrocuted in Playa Guiones when she climbed onto high voltage, uninsulated power lines on the main road.

Deforestation and road improvements have led to many natural tree crossings being destroyed. Although we did install a rope bridge near the location where Star was injured, she found her way onto an uninsulated power line trying to find her way across. With the help of the local electrical company, ICE, and the company that is improving the roads, MOPT, we will be installing more rope bridges to help arboreal wildlife cross the roads safely.

Star was treated with pain-medication, antibiotics and soothing burn cream and she quickly started to feel better. The moment her burns had healed and new skin had formed, she was moved into the outside enclosure with Charlotte and Iggy.

Star became best friends with Charlotte and they could always be found inside the enclosure snuggling together. Once the team saw how well they got along, everyone agreed that they had to be released together.