Hey, hey, we’re the monkeys!

MANAUS, BRAZIL (CUP) –This ain’t no monkey business. Although tourists love taking a boat ride to the monkey rehab facility, it isn’t profit that drives the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge’s Monkey Forest.
“Our main goal is that they reproduce and form new groups to populate this area,” explains tour guide Anselmo Oliveira.
The park is across the Negro River from Manaus, the capital of the northwestern Brazilian state of Amazonas. While a monkey rehab centre doesn’t generally deal with the same problems as a human rehab centre might, more than 300 monkeys have lived at Monkey Forest in the past 17 years.
“We want to rehabilitate endangered species of monkeys that have been raised in captivity, and provide a suitable habitat for them so they can reintegrate into the wild,” Anselmo said.
Since most of them were raised in captivity, though, some picked up the nasty habits of their previous owners.
“I’ve seen it many times where, if a female visitor is wearing a skirt, the male monkeys will go over and lift it up to look underneath,” Anselmo said, adding that others will throw food and serving dishes during feeding time.
Manners are one thing, but other monkeys show up with health problems that are the result of mistreatment while living as pets.
“Sometimes when people have monkeys at home, they forget that they are wild,” Anselmo said. “People give them the wrong kind of food that will destroy their intestinal tract, like Coke or candy or beer. They should only give them natural things – fruits like bananas or oranges, but not alcoholic drinks or cigarettes.’
Of the 36 monkeys that currently live at Monkey Forest, one of them was castrated by his owner. Ecopark, as well as other similar projects in the area, receive monkeys from the Brazilian Institute of the Environment (IBAMA), a national environmental protection agency.
“Sometimes what people will do is simply take the monkey somewhere in the jungle and release it, but we know that that monkey will not survive because he’s not adapted to the forest,” Anselmo said. “This is why centres like this exist – so that the monkeys have a chance to relearn how to cope with the forest and then they can be released.”
A handful of hotels in the area use the monkeys more for entertainment purposes and allow them to mingle with guests. Monkey Forest is isolated from the Ecopark Lodge, providing a sort of transition point between living with humans and a natural environment.
The tourism generated by the monkeys also plays a rather pivotal role in the centre’s survival since much of its funding comes from visitor donations.
Anselmo estimates that it costs a little more than $1,000 per year per monkey to pay for staff, food and veterinarian visits, only part of which comes out of Ecopark’s own budget.
Currently there is only one dominant male in the group, but as the younger males grow up, they will form their own smaller groups and head off into the woods, completing their time at the centre. Since dominant males cannot coexist, the social evolution of the groups is a necessary part of the rehabilitation process.
Even though the visitors and staff would miss them, Anselmo insists the day when the centre might become empty isn’t one that he dreads. “I’m going to be very glad for them if they achieve their goal,” he said.


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