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Electrocuted Baby Howler Beats Odds

When infant howlers are badly electrocuted their prognosis isn’t good; it is very rare that howler infants survive such terrible electrocution injuries. Their little bodies are so fragile and the damage caused by electrocutions can be gruesome and usually fatal.

Esmeralda the day she arrived and a year later!
Esmeralda after her fingers were amputated

In Sept 2017, Esmeralda’s mother climbed onto a high voltage transformer with 34,400 volts of deadly electricity flowing through it and was killed instantly. Esmeralda, who was riding on her mother’s back at the time, was badly burned but wasn’t killed because her mother absorbed most of the current. Esmeralda sustained electrical burns to her face, tail, feet, back, and hands – with several fingers severely burned to the point that they needed to be amputated. This was a lot for an infant howler, who was only a few months old at the time, to endure. We did not think she would survive. But thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff, Esmeralda is thriving two years later! She is still receiving round-the-clock care and will stay with us until she’s 4-5 years old before she’s old enough to be released.

Esmeralda is easy to spot in the enclosure because she has a distinctive lightning bolt scar along her right side, is missing several fingers on her left hand, and her tail is bent at the very tip. She’s a little bit smaller than her friends, but she makes up for her lack of size with her sparkling personality! Esmeralda is well known for being a bit of a prankster; smiling as she pulls at the tails of her friends or leaps onto their heads!

Esmeralda and her troop recently graduated from our Junior Nursery and have been thriving inside our Juvenile Nursery. Our animal keepers have been filling the enclosure with advanced enrichment items to help the group perfect the skills they will need when they are released, such as swinging platforms and vines. In the coming weeks, Esmeralda and her family will be moving into our pre-release enclosure which is several stories high and completely outdoors. The extra height is important for the monkeys to become accustomed to the treetops and sleeping outdoors at night is an essential skill they must learn.

The enclosure contains bamboo feeding towers where our team can insert branches of the monkeys’ favorite leaves. The towers can then be hoisted high up into the enclosure to help the monkeys forage naturally as if they were in the forest canopy. This last step before moving to our release enclosure is important as it’s when our veterinary team will closely assess each monkey and ensure that they have the skills required to be released. Sadly, not all monkeys can be released, but it is our greatest hope that Esmeralda will continue to progress in this next stage of her rehabilitation so that she can be released back into the forest where she belongs. 

Esmeralda (far right) and her troop.

Esmeralda is still as feisty as ever and loves to wrestle with the boys in her troop who have now grown into large young adults. She’s still smaller than the other monkeys in her family, but her large personality makes up for her tiny stature. She loves to snuggle with her friend Yahaira and both girls really enjoy the high platforms where they sunbathe throughout the day.

Although Esmeralda has beaten the odds, she is the exception to the rule – most electrocution victims succumb to their injuries. The survival rate for electrocuted wildlife is very low. More than half of all electrocuted howlers die at the scene (or shortly after) and approximately two-thirds of electrocution patients that receive treatment succumb to internal injuries weeks/months later. The best solution to end injuries and deaths caused by electrocution is prevention! Visit our Stop the Shocks webpage to learn more: http://refugeforwildlife.org/stop-the-shocks/