Bacon's Rebellion

Howler Monkey Spotting

Finally – a howler monkey spotting!

It took some doing. We rode by skiff to Monkey River Village, a Belizean village down the coast where the population made its living fishing, lobstering, and escorting tourists up the Monkey River to see the howler monkeys. There, we picked up a guide, Brian, who took us upstream a couple of miles. The whole trip, he treated us to an entertaining account in barely understandable English about the flora and fauna of the rain forest and how his grandparents used the palm fronds, and bark and what-not to build their dwellings and cure their ailments. Brian belongs to one of Belize’s more colorful ethnic groups, the Garifuna, descendants of native Indians and castaway African slaves who have their own distinctive culture and language.

At length, thanks to Brian’s sharp eye, we spotted some monkeys. There they were, feeding off the leaves of a tree by the river, hanging by their prehensile tails, uttering the occasional bark (but no full-throated howls) and otherwise loafing around. It’s not a hard business being a howler monkey. Predators can’t get you high up in the trees. You don’t have to worry about humans — you’re a protected species, and an entire village of 350 or so souls makes its livelihood showing you to people. Even the tourists are no bother. They’re stuck on boats in the middle of a crocodile-infested river. For howler monkeys, life is sweet.

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