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Free At Last! Orphaned Howlers Released!

After years of rehabilitation and care, Mango, Ana and Stan have returned to the forest. It was an emotional day as the Refuge staff watched the howler monkeys climb out of their enclosure and into the surrounding treetops!

Although these monkeys had a wide variety of enrichment items (including tree branches and vines) inside their enclosures over the years, it has been a long time since they climbed a real tree! It was wonderful to watch as they took their first tentative steps outside the enclosure. It only took them a few minutes before they realized they were free at last and began energetically exploring their new home. They started by circling around the enclosure, slowly getting used to safe paths to move between the trees. After a few minutes, they began climbing higher and jumping back and forth between the trees with confidence. They were visibly excited to have a wonderful new playground and were curious about everything, especially the abundance of yummy leafy snacks surrounding them!

Our release enclosure is temporarily located deep inside the heavily forested community of Pachamama in San Juanillo and is in an off-limits part of the grounds across a river.  Pachamama has been very kind to let us use their MINAE-approved land for releases and has even provided a Refuge trained and dedicated volunteer to prepare the twice-daily feedings that were required during the past month while the monkeys became accustomed to their new surroundings. The Refuge veterinarian visited several times a week to monitor the health of the monkeys and to ensure that they were fit for release.


Who Are The Monkeys?


Mango fell from a tree as an infant when he and his family were trying to cross the road. There was a gap in the trees and Mango jumped and missed, falling onto the road. He suffered from head trauma and required extensive medical care.  He was given his name because when he arrived he had mango all over his face.

Mango still has a “lazy” looking eye from the fall and tilts his head to see certain angles. This disability hasn’t stopped him from becoming the most powerful member of his family though! Mango is the absolute alpha of the group, having asserted his dominance when he was much younger. He was the first monkey in the juvenile nursery to start howling and with a lot of practice, he now has a very loud and long howl – louder than any other rescue at the Refuge!  Mango is the kind of leader that is very laid back and doesn’t have a problem letting Ana, the alpha female, lead the troop.


Ana is the bravest monkey of the group. She has consistently been the first of the monkeys to try new things and was the first to explore outside of the release enclosure. She climbed out of the release enclosure while the boys stayed inside! She has always shown confidence and never gets stressed when faced with new challenges. Because of this, we are sure that Ana will adjust to life in the wild very easily.

Ana lost her mother due to electrocution but thankfully did not have any injuries. From day one, she has been fiercely independent and never once wanted the attention of our human caregivers. Even as a young infant, Ana would climb to the very top of the howler nursery and play and explore without the need for any comfort items such as hot water bottles or teddy bears. She’s grown into a beautiful young adult and we’re very proud of her.


Stan is a submissive male who was a bit of a late bloomer because he was not properly socialized with other howlers when he was young. Stan was transferred to us from another center that was not registered to care for primates, and unfortunately, he had been humanized. He behaved like a pet and when he arrived he was an older juvenile which made rehabilitation much harder. It had been a challenge to teach him to behave more like a wild monkey because he saw humans as something to interact with.

In order to be eligible for release, Stan needed to show no signs of wanting human attention and thankfully he has passed this final test! Stan has now learned how to be a part of a howler troop and has perfected all the essential survival skills all our howlers learn at the Refuge. Stan is very strong, but because he has a submissive personality, he is very gentle with his family. Stan is a bit of a clown and loves to play and wrestle with Ana and Mango – he is always searching for something fun to do!

We are so thrilled that these 3 monkeys have confidently returned to the forest after many months of rehabilitation. We continued to provide food inside their enclosure for the first several days just in case the monkeys needed to take more time to adjust. Although the monkeys stayed within a kilometer of the enclosure for the first night, they did not return to their enclosure and have now moved further into the forest to start their new lives.