Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monkey Undercover

The time came to leave for San Jose and we called the director at the reserve to confirm when and where to drop off the baby monkey. However, the news was not good. The director advised us that the species of mono tities in the north of Costa Rica were different than the species found in the south. Regulations in the country did not permit him to accept our baby monkey as they wanted to keep the two species separate. Now what? We were in a bit of a quandary. It is illegal to keep an endangered animal as a pet in Costa Rica. But we could not find a legitimate establishment to take him. We also needed to go to San Jose which was a nine hour trip. What would we do with the little monkey? We finally decided to take him with us. Mike had a large camera case that made a very comfy little “baby carrier”. I padded the case with towels and got his little milk supply ready; which was basically a jar of milk and his little visine bottle.

We were nervous as there are several checkpoints in Costa Rica when traveling by automobile. Most of the time the armed policemen just checked documents and waved us through. But there was always the chance of a complete search. Most of the time, the little baby monkey just dozed, but every now and again his little head would pop out of the camera case and I knew he was ready to be fed. I was learning to distinguish his little peeps. Mono tities sound amazingly like birds. They chirp and peep and make little whistling sounds. He had a distinct and constant little peep when he was hungry.

We drove to San Jose without incident. We were staying with our friends, Dolly and George at their bed and breakfast in Alajuela. They were quite taken with our little charge and gladly “baby sat” while Mike and I attended our various appointments.

We spoke to a veterinarian while we were in San Jose and he advised orphaned baby monkeys usually “imprint” their caretakers making a release back into the wild very difficult. Adult monkeys do not make good pets as they get aggressive at sexual maturity. Sadly, most monkeys usually end up in a zoo or have to be euthanized. when they are older.

We left San Jose after a couple of days and headed back to Cuervito. Mike and I discussed at length about the baby monkeys future. After much soul searching, we decided to keep him and work towards a release to the forest when the time was right. We could only hope we were doing the right thing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Monkey Who Fell From the Sky.

On February 24, 2009, Mike and I were sitting on the deck of the pole house Mike and I were building, with our friends Cathy and Tim. The sunset was gorgeous, we were laughing and enjoying each others company when Mike heard the transformer on the property sizzle and pop in that dismaying sound when something touches a live electrical wire. Mike climbed down the stairs and went over to the transformer and said, “Judy, come here.” I could tell by the sound of his voice it was not good. When Cathy and I reached Mike and Tim, he pointed to a mother squirrel monkey with a baby on her back. The mother had been electrocuted and she fallen about 12 feet with the baby still on her back. She was still alive, but seriously injured. She was trying to scamper away, but it was obvious she had been burned on her paws and was having problems moving. She was also disoriented and stunned. The decision was made to bring both of them back to the house and we found a large bucket and Mike picked up the Mother by the tail and dropped her in the bucket with the baby still clutching it’s mother.

We kept the Mother and baby in our bedroom that night and heard a bit of movement during the night and hoped for the best, however, upon arising the next morning, we discovered the mother had died still clutching her baby to her breasts. The baby appeared to be fine. Mike pulled the baby from the dead mother’s arms and it was one of the saddest sights I have ever witnessed. Seeing the mother lay there with her arms still folded over her chest like she was holding her baby made me weep. Mike buried the Mother and we started talking about what to do with the baby.

Before we came to Costa Rica, I jokingly asked Mike if I could have a monkey. He said only if a monkey fell at our feet. We soon came to realize how prophetic that joke was to become. We decided it was not a good idea to keep the baby monkey. He was building a house and I wasn’t ready to become a full time foster mother. We called an animal rescue in San Jose and they agreed to take the monkey. A tico family offered to take the monkey, but Mike and I ultimately agreed the best course of action would be to rehabilitate the baby monkey to be re-released into the wild. We were going to San Jose in a couple of weeks for some Medical appointments and we would take the baby monkey then.

The baby was waking up about every two and three hours at first for feedings. We were feeding it regular cow’s dry milk very much diluted. We fed him with a tiny visine eye dropper bottle. He would drink so fast and furious; his little stomach looked like a miniature baby Buddha. Due to not enough suckling from his real mother, he took to sucking his thumb. We were to later learn this behavior is not common among baby monkeys in the wild. The baby monkey got very attached to Mike and me right away and would clutch our arms with all of his might using the instincts for holding onto mother monkeys as they jumped through trees with daring leaps and bounds and freefalls.

Mike and I loved this adorable creature, but we were determined the best course of action would be for him to be in a wild live reserve.

Later, the Trip to San Jose.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Butterflies and Monkeys

Mike and I met online on September 18, 2007. His descriptions of his life in Costa Rica and his love for nature and especially his penchant for “soft winged things” as coined by Victor Hugo left me enchanted.
He sent me pictures of butterflies, birds, frogs and flowers. However there was one picture that he sent that changed everything! It was a picture of a mono titi, in Spanish, a squirrel monkey by common name. The little guy was draped around a limb of a tree sleeping. I had never even heard of a squirrel monkey, but it didn’t matter. I sent Mike an email back telling him that he had no way of knowing, but I LOVE MONKEYS. There are four species of monkeys in Costa Rica. The squirrel monkey or mono titi (pronounced mono-tee-tee), the white face monkeys or capuchins , the howler monkeys or mono Congo and the spider monkey. The spider monkey is no longer in our area, but fortunately is located in other areas of Costa Rica. So started our love affair fueled by joint interests of nature, water, music and many thoughts and beliefs held in common. In September of 2008, I took an early retirement. After visiting his family in Hawaii for seven weeks, I moved to Costa Rica in November of 2008. The adventure begins.