From starting the year with six manatees in the manatee rehabilitation facility, we now have only three manatees in full time care. Hope, Callie and Chikki, the younger manatees, are growing well in the lagoon enclosure.
Khaleesi has completed her soft release and is no longer tracked, and Mitch and Lucky have been mastering soft release in the lagoon. Soft release tracking is by GPS tag, supported by the Wildtracks drone, giving us an insight into what our soft release manatees are up to. We've been fortunate to have really good water clarity this year as well - great for drone photography!
The milk supplies for the Manatee Rehabilitation Programme are supported largely by Save the Manatee Club and its members...Thank you!!
Wildtracks works to strengthen primate conservation in Belize, for globally endangered Yucatan black howler monkeys and Central American black handed spider monkeys. In Fireburn, the 2018 howler monkey releases are well underway, with Rudy Castellanos and his team of post-release trackers busy in the field keeping track of monkey movements. Annie, Anerie and Molly were released in June, with Annie and Molly have taken a liking to Innie, who was living the life of a bachelor in the release area. Anerie, unfortunately was not so happy at the idea of joining him, and we made the decision to bring her back for integration into another troop, for release next year. Sometimes individuals just need a little extra time.
It has been interesting to see Annie's success at being wild - she came in with bad injuries to her tail after being attacked by dogs when she was an infant. With help from the Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic, a third of her tail was saved, and she's made up for the loss of this prehensile limb by becoming much more adept at jumping and developing incredibly strong feet for hanging. Not having a fully working tail is in no way holding her back! (Photo: E. Gissis)
You may recognise Annie, as she starred on a LUSH Charity Pot earlier this year. LUSH has been supporting Wildtracks activities - national primate conservation planning and outreach in Belize towards reducing the illegal capture and trade in primates.
Charlie - the male in the group. He and the other four spider monkeys are Central American black handed spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). They are globally Endangered, and moving towards Critically Endangered - one of the reasons why this release is so important.
(Photo: J. Parsons)
Duma - the first spider monkey to arrive at Wildtracks in 2011 - much loved and a real character. She is integrated into the Charlie's tight knit group, and ready for freedom...This group has been selected as the first because they are all young, and more adaptable than some of the other groups in rehabilitation at Wildtracks at the moment. They will be leading the way...
(Photo: E. Gissis).
Mel hanging around in the Central Enclosure - with access to real trees to hone her skills for a life in the wild.
The release protocols are designed to give these highly intelligent primates time to know and map their environment. They will have three months to settle into a pre-release enclosure at the release site and become comfortable with the new sights, sounds and smells of the Fireburn / North East Corridor area, then once released, will have continued provision of food and water until they become independent. The Wildtracks Post-Release Tracking Team will be monitoring the release success for a full year as the monkeys mentally map the location of fruiting trees in the forest they will soon call home.
(Photo: J. Parsons)
Mattie and Duma LOVE hammocks - this may be their biggest challenge going back to the wild - giving up their hammock addiction!
We are going to be using cutting edge satellite tracking technology to help track these monkeys - on 15th August, two Russian cosmonauts walked outside of the International Space Station (ISS) to unfold the Icarus antenna, to operationalize the next generation of animal satellite trackers! The antenna’s installation marks the completion of the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using the Space (ICARUS) system... which will allow the worldwide tracking of wildlife, and will be brought into service over the coming weeks.
We have linked with the Icarus Initiative, and will be using these ultra light satellite transmitters to track the first five spider monkeys - Charlie, Duma, Mattie, Mel and Penny - as they start their lives back in the wild....
Update: We have amazing news just in...the purchase of the five Icarus transmitters is being donated by Gregg and Jill Stone - Thank you!
(Photo: E. Gissis)
Mel...just hanging out...
We have worked hard to ensure these primates are constantly challenged through enrichment in their enclosures throughout their rehabilitation...we use bamboo water holders to encourage them to use their hands to access drinking water from small cavities in trees, swinging platforms and ropes to improve their balance, and branches that encourage them to practice bracheating hand over hand through the enclosure. Access to the Central Enclosure ensures that they are also familiar with moving branches, foraging for fruit, and using palm trees.
(Photo E. Gissis)
Penny - Don't let her beauty fool you. She's Charlie's favourite play-wrestling opponent!
As we move towards the release, we are launching an appeal to meet the remaining release costs. We have had support from Wildtracks supporters through donations to Wildtracks USA, our USA-based partner, for equipping the post-release tracking team with the semi-permanent field camp - tents, cooking equipment etc. for one year of life in the field, and from Wild and Free for the construction of the Release Enclosure. We still have a significant financial gap to fill - covering purchase of the monitoring collars, logistical costs for moving into and out from the remote release site, and maintaining the monkeys through the acclimatization period.
(Photo: V. Jacke)
Our campaign "Returning spider monkeys to Belize's forests" has gone live!
Over the next few weeks we hope to raise US$10,000 towards the remaining release costs for Duma, Charlie, Mattie, Mel and Penny, our first release group of Central American black handed spider monkeys. This species is declining across the region, and moving towards critically endangered - it is only through conservation action that we can ensure their long term viability.
Charlie, Duma, Mattie, Mel and Penny - all rescued from the illegal pet trade. These five endangered spider monkeys, now a close knit family, will soon be released as part of Belize's first structured reintroduction for this species, establishing a new population in the north east forest. This ground breaking approach will produce a replicable model for future spider monkey releases in Belize and the region, returning them to the wild.
A huge thank you to Wildtracks USA for funding towards the support camp equipment and monitoring supplies, to Wild and Free for funding the materials for the release enclosure, and to all those Wildtracks supporters and volunteers who have contributed to the care of these amazing primates since the programme started. Let's ensure that this release is as successful as the Wildtracks howler monkey releases!
Be part of the challenge...be a part of the Wildtracks Team and help us reach our target...
(Photo: T. Lister)
Wildtracks has recently completed a one year project in partnership with the Belize Forest Department, and funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service - Wildlife Without Borders (Latin America) programme. This focused on increasing recognition of wildlife crime and the illegal wildlife trade, across enforcement agencies. Outputs included the guide "Wildlife and the Law", distributed to enforcement personnel in the Forest Department, Police Department, Interpol, Belize Defense Force, conservation partners and protected area managers across Belize.
As part of this, Wildtracks has also been leading the development of a Wildlife Awareness Strategy with the participation of the Forest Department and conservation partners from across Belize, including the production of a video broadcast across national television - "Monkeys have families too", that tackles the need to keep monkeys in the wild.
E. Gissis, J. Parsons, S. Iwanicki, Wildtracks