Community Baboon Sanctuary
Our trip to the Community Baboon Sanctuary was a real treat. I, Janet, had a few reservations as our hostesses at breakfast had spoken of how the handlers at the sanctuary made the baboons do lots of tricks. I was interested in seeing howler monkeys, called baboons here, in their natural habitat, not seeing them being forced to entertain us.
The Sanctuary is an effort of the women of the area around Burrell Boom to save the baboons as their natural habitat was being lost to deforestation and farming. Local land owners have pledged land to the sanctuary so that the monkeys have acres of land to travel through. The women’s cooperative has built a very nice visitors’ center which gives a short history of Belize and provides information about the flora and fauna of the area.
After we walked through the displays we each paid our fee ($7 US/$14 BZ) for a guided tour of the treed area of the sanctuary. Our guide Carolyn had a wealth of knowledge about the monkeys and farming in the area. The monkeys are wild, but they are relatively tame. When we spotted some in the treetops, they were willing to come down to our level to eat some leaves that Carolyn offered them. We had a real treat in that a 6–week old baby was on its grandmother’s back when she came down to our level. The baby was obviously in distress, wanting its mother, evidenced by the fact that it kept climbing around its grandmother — back to front to back again and making little noises. Soon the grandmother climbed back up into the trees and the mother arrived and took the baby and allowed it to nurse.
Throughout the forest walk, Carolyn pointed out various plants and trees and told us about which had economic value and which had medicinal value. We also saw some leaf cutter ants in action. They are so prolific here that they are a bane of the farmers and a real threat to efforts of making a viable “truck gardening” economy for the area.
At the end of our walk, Carolyn located the dominate male in the monkey troop. When Carolyn started to clap her hands and howl like a male monkey, he responded with his howls. He really got wound up. He could hear another howler off in the distance so the two of them really kept at it.
After returning to our cabana to clean up and change, we drove into the center city for a Chinese dinner at a recommended restaurant. It is David’s birthday so we wanted to celebrate a little. The meal was very good, but not as good as what we get at C&T Market in West Lafayette. However, the restaurant was pleasant and the owner who waited on us was very interested in having us enjoy our meal.