Red howler monkeys succesfully released

Merazonia’s attitude towards wildlife conservation is to be modest and simply work hard for the animals. But we are making an exception for our recent success: the release of our group of red howler monkeys! Merazonia is the only centre in Ecuador successfully maintaining this species healthy in captivity. Being able to release this first group is an exceptional achievement that makes us both proud and stand out. Click here to watch a video of the free howlers!

Does life imitate art? Perhaps a strange question to ask in this context, but there is a reason. In 2012 a book was published by Keddy Flett (pseudonym) called Swallow the sea, in which the author talks about his time volunteering at Merazonia. In the book the centre’s name is changed into the poetic sounding ‘Open Enclosures’. And well in 2018 that is exactly what we did: create an open enclosure.

Monkey release

Released howler monkeys Merazonia 2In June the hatch that we built on the enclosure of the howler monkeys was opened and with some initial hesitation our reds left the cage and started exploring. At first, cautious and close to the enclosure - still seeking its protection to sleep at night. They were free to go in and out as they pleased though. It did not take them long to venture deeper in to the surrounding forest and they were using their previous home only as a bathroom. Howlers are creatures of habit.

We are still feeding them but are diminishing their food little by little and they receive less leaves now as they are perfectly capable of finding their own ones. It is an astonishing experience to see them gain more confidence every day. First, they started exploring on a horizontal level, but now roam vertically as well, discovering that the tree tops is where the views are best and the leaves the most fresh. Our footage so far is limited but we made a small compilation video for you to enjoy anyway.

Primate rehabilitation

Merazonia prepares their animals well for future releases and keeps monitoring them post release. In this case we use radio tracking devices and radio collars so we can follow the monkeys on distance when needed. The radio collars proof to be a good investment because even close to the enclosure, it can be hard to find a monkey hiding in the tree tops.

The Merazonia reserve has plenty of primary and secondary rainforest for the howlers to feast on and we expect them to stay close for now. This is good because it helps us monitor them and study their behaviour. It will also hopefully give youngster Chili a chance to join the group later on. This video shows her when she was rescued a year ago, only a few weeks old. Despite her feisty, explorative character, Chili is still too young to be introduced to the group and has a surrogate mommy and daddy who venture around the jungle with her.Little howler monkey Chili at Merazonia

Merazonia reserve

The free monkeys are monitored throughout the day. That way we can register their development and assure their wellbeing. Their natural territory is relatively small and the area of our reserve lies within their natural habitat, making Merazonia a perfect area for their release. We know this species used to occupy this area decades ago but disappeared due to hunting and deforesting. It is an indicator species for having a healthy forrest.

We have several reports of neighbours and our own staff, hearing the impressive howls of wild howler monkeys in the distance, deeper in the forest. Ours might eventually team up with another troop but we are still actively looking for additional members to our group. The problem is that to our knowledge the only red howler monkeys successfully kept in captivity in Ecuador already live at Merazonia.

Howler monkey specialist

On the few occasions we have heard of a confiscated howler monkey somewhere in Ecuador, we were often too late to reach them and they had already died. Red howler monkeys are extremely delicate monkeys with very specific dietary needs and usually do not survive long in captivity without the necessary specialist care. It also takes patience and dedication. Click here to read a previous article on our howlers here, or watch this video to see how we formed our group.

So if you know of, or hear about, a red howler monkey in Ecuador held in captivity, let us know straight away and we will rush over to the rescue it and hopefully introduce it to our existing group with the prospect of being released into the jungle again in the future.

Merazonia supporters

We are grateful to the private donors and organizations that trust us and help us finance complicated and groundbreaking releases such as this one. Becoming a donor makes projects like this one possible! Think only of the costs of food and baby formula, or the purchase of tracking devices and radio collars. Click here for more info on donation options.

Finally, we want to say to all those volunteers that helped us throughout the years with the day to day care of our red howler monkeys: we've done it! Our volunteers' dedication is vital for the survival and happiness of our howler monkeys and of all the animals in our care! Together, we can make a difference!

Released red howler monkeys at MerazoniaReleased red howler monkey Niamh at MerazoniaReleased red howler monkey Niamh at Merazonia