By Kyla Moede
I never would’ve imagined myself to have gained a deep obsession with five baby howler monkeys in such a simple, tiny town in Belize called Sarteneja.
It’s amazing how life always seems to work itself out. My initial inclination was drawing me to Australia, Thailand, Bali or Costa Rica, and I was somewhat disappointed in my choice of location, but now, I’ve realized that there is no place I’d rather be than Belize. Sarteneja is a very small fishing village in northern Belize which consists of a few restaurants, a grocery store, and a dance club. At the beginning of my stay, I was very doubtful and concerned; however, I’ve been at Wildtracks for over a month and I’ve completely fallen in love with the work, animals and peaceful environment.
The rehabilitation center takes in howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and manatees of all ages. I have developed a parental trait in me since caring for baby monkeys are extremely similar to having a child–they don’t just poop, cry, eat a lot, play and sleep, but they also seek love and affection. We have created a strong bond that I am forever grateful for. It will be so difficult to leave them when my journey comes to an end.
The animals have gone through the hardest times while growing up, whether it was from being illegal pets or just mistreated in many ways, resulting in the intense need for a nurturing motherly figure. About 12 hours of supervision each day is essential for these delicate animals. I know you aren’t suppose to have a favorite child, but mine has to be Tuli. Even though she has attachment issues, she is the most loving, sweetest monkey ever. Franklin is such a naughty but playful boy. Ernie is a bit on the slower side but is extremely funny and shy. Prim and Piper are very identical in looks and personalities–they are very enthusiastic but quiet and have the same body shape.
I feel as if I have my own children and have decided that after this life-changing experience, although I enjoy the company and responsibility, I might not want to have permanent kids of my own in the future (sorry mom). It’s hard work, but Sarteneja is the best place to do it! There is not one worry in the world, and I am immensely grateful I have the chance to interact with amazing people from all over the world and form life-long relationships.
I have discovered that animal conservation is a topic that I am passionate about, so I hope my path of life brings me back to this amazing organization in the future.