Primate Rehabilitation Volunteer
- Volunteer Opportunity posted by Wildtracks Primate and Manatee Rehabilitation Center
Short-Term (few weeks/months)
Belize is home to two species of primate – the Yucatán black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) and Geoffroy’s spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi). Both are considered globally endangered, and Belize’s populations are being pressured by increasing tropical forest clearance, and as they are hunted for their young. In Belize, it is illegal to keep monkeys as pets. Despite this, the mothers are often shot and killed for their babies, which are then sold into the illegal pet trade.
The National Primate Rehabilitation Centre, located at Wildtracks, takes in any and all monkeys that are surrendered or confiscated by the Forest Department, as well as many other wildlife species in need of assistance. The Centre generally has 45+ monkeys in rehabilitation at any given time. A central goal of the primate rehabilitation program is to assist the Forest Department in its zero tolerance policy regarding primates as illegal pets, significantly reducing - if not ending - the illegal pet trade in monkeys in Belize, and to give all surrendered and confiscated monkeys the best possible chance to be returned to the wild. Wildtracks is having remarkable success in rehabilitation and release - with a 94% post-release survival of the howler monkeys released to date.
Primate rehabilitation can be very labour-intensive, particularly with such social and intelligent species. Primate volunteers are assigned to one or more monkeys, and work with those individuals for the duration of their placement. Tasks depend on the stage of rehabilitation of the primates in care, with human contact being gradually weaned as monkeys progress through the rehabilitation process (orphaned infants require a surrogate mother figure, while monkeys nearing release have no direct contact with humans). Sub-adult to adult primates in care are fed four times daily, and nursery aged primates are fed every 3 hours - sometimes through the night. As such, volunteers can expect to work long days, generally from 6:30am to 5:30pm, with short breaks throughout the day.
Other tasks include: cleaning, preparing enrichment materials, enclosure maintenance, and the opportunity for some work with other various Belizean wildlife, particularly manatees.
In a country such as Belize, where financial support from the government is limited, such care can only be provided by volunteers. The Primate Rehabilitation Centre has a very small salaried staff and relies heavily on its volunteer team year-round. Volunteers must be highly motivated, reliable, observant, have a good attitude, and commit to a minimum of a 1 month position. No prior experience with primates is required – we will provide all necessary training on site!
- Training Provided
- Housing Available
- International Volunteers