Menu Close

Orphaned Howler Monkeys Rescued as Infants are Released!

After undergoing intensive and lengthy rehabilitation in our rescue center, three orphaned howler monkeys have finally returned to freedom in the forest! Jordanny, Sophie and Lola had been with us since being rescued as fragile babies four years ago. Having lost their mothers they would not have survived in the wild as tiny infants and needed 24-hour care from our dedicated staff at Refuge for Wildlife.

Sophie, Jordanny and Lola exploring their new jungle home

“It was with great joy that our team watched as all three monkeys confidently left the enclosure and explored their new home – free and wild where they belong! Our job is a tough one, but moments like this remind us of how important it is for us to continue helping and protecting the wildlife of Costa Rica.”  – Laura Wilkinson, Media Manager, Refuge for Wildlife

howler monkey baby and adult in jungle
Jordanny soon after he arrived at the Refuge and four years later when he was released

Back in early 2015, Jordanny was found by some local children sitting all alone by the side of the road in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.  We do not know what happened to his mother, but Jordanny was only a few weeks old and if he hadn’t been found, he would have starved, been attacked by predators or maybe even hit by a car. Howler infants are totally dependent on their mothers for the first several months of their lives which means caring for young orphaned howlers require special skills. Inside our dedicated infant howler monkey nursery, our experienced staff provide each infant with the comfort and care they require, which includes: regulating their temperature, providing comforting plush toys to snuggle and hand-feeding each orphan formula every 2-3 hours.

Jordanny making friends with Lola

When Jordanny first arrived, he was provided with around-the-clock care from our trained staff and, because of his playful personality, he quickly became a favorite among our caregivers. Jordanny has a zest for life and loves to show everyone just how much fun he’s having with a great big smile! As an infant, he was one of the most vocal monkeys in the nursery and was always calling out to his friends to play with him. He absolutely loved to play tag and could climb around the nursery for hours chasing his friends, grinning the entire time. 

Almost exactly a year after Jordanny was rescued, Lola and Sophie joined us at the Refuge. Both girls were transferred to us from another rescue center that wasn’t able to care for primates and we were happy to give them a nurturing place to grow up. Sophie and Lola were both around 8 months old and Jordanny was just over a year old when he met his new forever family. Jordanny, Lola, and Sophie were instantly friends because both girls were also very playful and loved to cause mischief.  The trio quickly bonded and became a new family, supporting each other throughout the rehabilitation process. As our photographs show, all three monkeys love to smile – they seem to always be having a great time together!

Over the next several years, thanks to the exceptional care provided by the Refuge staff, the monkeys developed all the essential skills they would require to survive in the wild. Finally, in mid-December, they were transferred to the Refuge’s newly built release enclosure, located in a heavily forested and remote area of San Juanillo, on land belonging to the ecological and spiritual community of PachaMama.

“Helping Refuge for Wildlife with this important rescue and release work is the least PachaMama can do.  PachaMama will keep supporting as much as possible and hope that more people will recognize what dedication and crucial work they do so that we can better protect, understand and keep enjoying the natural world around us.” Chandani Bakeeff, PachaMama 

Moments after the hatch was opened

Planned by Gavin Bruce from International Animal Rescue and Dr. Francisco Sánchez Murillo, Refuge for Wildlife Veterinarian, the enclosure was designed to be rapidly erected or removed and relocated in a modular fashion for future use in different locations. Built out of welded steel posts, with two types of metal fencing to protect against predators like boa constrictors, it is also fitted with a special doorway for entry and exit of caregivers as well as a hatch for the moment when the monkeys are ready for release. The build and installation of the release enclosure were carried out by Tua Oyam, construction lead from PachaMama, and Omar Varela Murillo, Diego Ortiz, and Marcos Soliz. Matt Banes, an Advisory Board Member for the Refuge, oversaw completing the build according to the planned release program schedule, budget, and specification.

Inside the enclosure at the release location

Having already had very limited human contact during the pre-release stage of their rehabilitation process, once in the release enclosure the monkeys were provided with food twice a day but had no other human interaction or noises. Refuge Veterinarian Francisco Sánchez Murillo visited each morning to monitor the monkeys and make sure they’re fit and healthy, showing appropriate foraging skills, eating the foods they would find in the wild, that they were also displaying appropriate behavior towards each other and had adapted well to every aspect of their new environment.

The release enclosure deep in the forest

After several weeks adjusting to their new surroundings, the three were finally deemed ready for release. The top of the enclosure was opened and, within minutes they all climbed out confidently high up into the trees. It takes an enormous amount of dedication from our staff to take an orphaned infant howler monkeys through the rehabilitation program to the final release stage. Because of the types of injuries endured by many of our rescues, not all orphaned howlers survive to adulthood so a release like this one is especially emotional for us.


howler monkey baby and adult in junge
Lola the day she arrived at the Refuge and the day she finally went home

“We are very excited to finally release these howler monkeys back to the forest after years of intensive care provided by all the staff of the refuge at the different stages. Together as a team our veterinary crew, animal keepers, admin personnel and volunteers have successfully completed the final stage of the rehabilitation of these individuals and we cannot be more excited for them. We have completed our goal after a tremendous effort from everyone. To be able to see these monkeys free is the best reward we can have.” – Dr. Francisco Sánchez Murillo, Veterinarian, Refuge for Wildlife

howler monkey infant and adult released
Sophie as an infant and now as a confident young adult

The monkeys’ journey back to freedom was achieved not only thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Refuge itself, but also with the support of numerous other groups and individuals. The rehabilitation and release operation would not have been possible without the support of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and specifically the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) office in Santa Cruz.

“This release was a wonderful ending after the tragedy of these monkeys losing their mothers. Watching them climb out into the pristine jungle near a beautiful river was an amazing thing to experience. PachaMama gave invaluable support to the release. Not only did they provide the location for the release site, they also provided volunteers, including Gal Yudkin who was in charge of providing food for the monkeys. Special thanks to Tyohar Kastiel, founder and spiritual leader of PachaMama, Tua Oyam, Ananda Nurick, and Suvan Eyal for their incredible support.” – Brenda Bombard, Founder, Refuge for Wildlife