How to sum up my time at Wildtracks is an easy one… AMAZING! This is something I would never have thought I’d have the delight to be able to do, as I have no wildlife conservation / rehab experience at all, in fact, I have no animal experience whatsoever. However, this is not a problem for volunteering at Wildtracks, as long as you are committed and reliable, then training and working / interacting with the animals won’t be an issue, as you are shown the ropes, plus there is always someone at hand to ask if ever unsure.
When I arrived at Wildtracks I was placed with the spider monkeys, and from the first time I saw them, I felt the connection between man and monkey. I loved working with the spider monkeys as, like humans, every single one has its own personality. Over my 6 week period here, I got to see and learn each of their personalities and what they liked and didn’t like. At first, the spiders took a few days to get used to me, but as the time went on and as the monkeys got used to me and I them, our relationship grew, and now I get warm greetings from Frisky, and get a warm hand squeeze from the charming Charlie, and trust me, the best type of greeting is definitely one from a monkey.
The day to day duties involved cutting the fruit for the monkey feeds, this was mainly papayas and bananas, but we also used other fruits such as cantaloupe, mango and even coconut, to name a few. After the fruit was chopped, we gave each group of monkeys their bowls and made sure they had plenty of browse and water. The feeds are 4 times a day at times 06:30, 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00, and during the feed time, I would check each monkey to ensure it was healthy and behaving normally.
Aside from the day to day duties there are plenty of other things going on that you could get involved with and help. During my 6 weeks here, I helped with catching a wild manatee, now named ‘The Duchess’, I got involved with tube feeding The Duchess, scrubbing manatee pools to make sure they are clean, having one on one time with the baby calf, Hope, assisting with an aspiration operation on L.C. the manatee, making enrichment for the spider monkeys and chopping the browse for both the howler and spider monkeys. These are just some of the other wonderful tasks I got my hands stuck in with, so, you will never feel like there’s nothing to do, and you can always find something to help with.
Later on in my time here, I was introduced to two adult howler monkeys in the pre-release site. These two monkeys – Kat and Balou – are on their last stage before they are released into the forest at Fireburn, and then they will be tracked to check their progress and to see how their release is going. Similar to the spider monkeys, I fed these at the same times, but this time I got to go in the enclosure with them, to give them their fruit and their milk. I still remember one of the first times I gave Kat and Balou their milk, Kat came down and drank from the milk bowl which was in my hand. She continued to stay here for a while and my heart melted, and then from that point, I was both a spider and a howler monkey type of person.
I had a lot of fun here, and what Paul and Zoe have started is just unbelievable, knowing that what you are doing is helping getting both the monkeys and the manatees back into the wild where possible is a feeling like no other. You can see how both monkeys and manatees progress from the young, like Hope and the monkeys in the nursery, to the adults and see how much more independent they have become.
I would recommend Wildtracks to anyone with an interest in these animals, and like myself and others here, having no experience isn’t an issue. I made a lot of friends here (monkey and human), I also feel like I made a difference, albeit a small one, but a difference none the less, but mainly I made memories - memories which I shall cherish and never forget.
Thank you Paul and Zoe for having me, and thank you Wildtracks, I look forward to volunteering here again in the near future!