Injuries caused by electrocution is what we see most often in the Refuge for Wildlife clinic. Every year Refuge for Wildlife rescues hundreds of monkeys and other wildlife that have been electrocuted due to uninsulated power lines and transformers. Electrocution is the #1 killer of howler monkeys in Costa Rica. This is a country-wide problem, but rural areas like Nosara, are where most wildlife deaths from electrocution occur. Unfortunately monkeys do not know the difference between electrical wires and natural vines and will often travel across wires to get to feeding grounds. This is especially an issue in areas of deforestation where monkeys are faced with no other choice than to risk traveling on electrical wires.
Thanks to the co-operative efforts of our Stop the Shocks Program and ICE, our electrical service provider, most of the electrical wires in the Playas de Nosara area were replaced with insulated cables many years ago. It is because of this hard work, that today our monkeys can travel without injury along many kilometres of electrical wires. There are, though, still many areas where uninsulated electrical wires are a problem and all it takes is a monkey to touch two live wires to be electrocuted.
The main issue with monkeys using the wires is that attached to all wires are high voltage power transformers. The monkeys travel along the wires in search for food and end up needing to cross a transformer to reach the wire on the other side. These transformers are very dangerous, with many parts of the transformer able to deliver a deadly jolt of electricity to anything that touches it. Sadly, our monkeys cannot sense the danger until it’s too late. The shock is extremely painful and causes horrific electrical burns and often muscular spasms so the monkey cannot let go and sometimes even catch on fire. What is worse, is that when a member of the troop is crying out in pain, the rest of the troop will try to help which often causes several family members to become electrocuted and die. Our Stop the Shocks program has been raising money to purchase wildlife protection kits to insulate these dangerous transformers.
Most of our surviving electrical burn victims are infant howlers. The reason they survive the initial electrocution is because they are holding onto their mothers. The mother absorbs most of the electrical current and the babies usually only have burns on their hands, tail and any other body part in direct contact with their mother. Some are lucky enough to have only minor burns.
At our onsite clinic, our veterinarian and skilled staff are experienced with treating electrical burns. Some amputations are performed to remove decaying limbs, fingers, toes and parts of tails, but usually the best treatment is proper cleaning of the wounds, pain relief, antibiotics and silver sulfadiazine burn cream. We are always amazed at how well infant howlers are able to adapt with their disabilities and recover with little to no scars.
In the past year we have seen an increase in alpha male attacks in the Nosara area because of new homes being built and more and more trees being cut down. The monkeys are running out of food, resources and territory and are now starting to fight more than usual. Alpha male howlers attack the face and eyes and try to blind their rivals- it is horrific. Most of these fights can be avoided. Adult males howl loudly to warn other troops that they are nearby. They do this all day long to announce their location so other groups can keep a safe distance.
Recently troops have collided because natural tree bridges have been cutdown and escape routes are less and less. Refuge for Wildlife, Nosara Civic Association and Costas Verdes have joined forces to create “Wildlife Crossings” between NCA parkland, green spaces and maritime zones. We are working closely together to map out current wildlife routes, create new and safe crossings, and to encourage businesses and home owners to leave existing natural tree bridges and plant new trees where deforestation has occurred. We mostly see large males with alpha attack injuries, but we have also rescued adult pregnant females and infants. Like lions, when a new alpha male howler takes over a troop, he kills all the babies. This is so all the females of the group will produce his offspring. In the case of babies, they try to crush their skull. It is a gruesome act, but one that keeps the family line strong and thriving with offspring from the strongest male of the group.
These are just a few examples of hundreds of injuries we are faced with each year. Our hard-working staff and volunteers have taken some of the most hopeless cases and turned them into a success story. Because we do not receive any government funding, this is only possible through the donations from the public to our Veterinary Services & Clinic Fund. The only way we can continue to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured wildlife is through donations. Please help us save the monkeys of Costa Rica and make a tax deductible contribution today.
Our Veterinary Services & Clinic Fund covers the veterinary treatment of our injured wildlife. This often involves treatment of severe burns, wound care, surgeries, amputations, and, unfortunately necessary euthanasia. Our onsite clinic provides the majority of the routine medical services and has facilities for a veterinarian to perform most services needed by the injured animals. Donating to the Veterinary Services & Clinic Fund will help us to buy necessary medical supplies including, prescription medications, burn cream, bandages, medical instruments and essential medical equipment as well as help us pay for an on-site veterinarian.