Baby Howler Rescue Part 3 – Fear and Spirit in Wildlife Rehabilitation
Baby Howler Monkey Rescue (Part 3): Wildlife Rehabilitation is a challenging waiting game in which we try to minimize fear and maximize „spirit“
Thanks for your comments and for following the story of the baby howler, Mr. P, now finally named „Spartacus“. Animals in the Belize primate rehab program are named. While some argue that this is too much anthropomorphism, I think it makes it more personable and definitely more suitable to tell their story, then “Monkey Number 147”, or the likes. But that is just a side note.
As you probably realize I am experimenting with writing (I’m a vet after all, not trained to write). I appreciate any and all feedback. I sure appreciate the question for possibilities to support the cause with donations, as one of the reasons for my writing is awareness and the need for more support! I will see how to link in the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network site and use the blogs functions. Donations are definitely welcome!
I am still new to this blogging and realize that at some point I should maybe also go back and introduce myself further then „wildlife veterinarian dedicated to conservation as well as animal welfare“ and talk about the different efforts, the developing network and NGO hence non-profit organization? You tell me!
But for now I would like to focus on the „cause“ and case, and will just update you on the ongoing for baby Spartacus on the rough road to, hopefully, full recovery. To soothe your anxiety – in case you share this with me: He is in the primate rehabilitation program in northern Belize and he is doing reasonably well! Yet this baby is by far not yet „out of the woods“ of loosing his freedom, hand or life.
Since I, still, do not have a facility available to provide any „in-house“ care, the primate rehabilitation program is the best place in Belize to care for him. Such dedicated and professional persons, yet it is 5 h away! The primate program is perfectly established and set up to deal with uninjured/healthy, orphaned babies, mainly from the pet trade. But Spartacus is a different case! If it comes to it, I will give this baby monkey the final credit for tipping me from „I need to find big donors to build a wildlife hospital for the country of Belize“, to „I just have to start it myself“, and „small and resourceful“, as opposed to „large enough to accommodate all possible needs for the country from now until eternity and all state of the art”. Stay tuned to see if my (small) loan is approved. Those who know me might guess right, that I am not necessarily a good candidate for credit. Not that I am a “credit card abuser” or anything like that! But, having worked in conservation, basically „in the field“, in Latin America, non-stop for the past 10 years and off and on since 1994, I have acquired no (financial) wealth. Yet, countless good experiences 🙂
Which brings me back: I currently receive daily updates on our baby monkey patient, and pictures. Thanks and big time Kudoz to Paul and Zoe for their amazing care with this extreme case. Another huge advantage of the primate program is that Spartacus can see the other monkeys there, and that perks up his spirits. The “spirit” is one of those crucial things in wildlife rescue and rehab. You just can’t put your finger on it, but it is the will to live, and survive, and fight for survival. If an animal looses this „spirit“ most times we loose the patient – those are sometimes very sad cases: when we can medically fix an animal, yet the fact that the wild animal can not bare to be held captive even temporarily while it heals, makes that we loose it.
Unfortunately for us humans trying to heal and or rehabilitate wild animals, keeping the „spirit“, often means that they fear and/or fight their rescuers and care givers. This in a case like Spartacus, with a nearly severed hand that was basically re-attached, makes things even more challenging. He is a baby after all and he needs to drink about every 3 hours. So every 3 hours he needs to be handled and convinced to feed, by a …“monster“, to use a human analogy. Truly what Spartacus sees is a prime predator that wants to eat him. A predator likely got him into this situation to begin with!
Aside from the fact that him trying to bite and fight, which could injure the recently re-attached hand and lead to failure, there is the fear factor. As we learned in the Part 2 of the baby monkey’s story: humans can fall into so called “psychogenic” shock. Meaning: talk of amputation and looks of gruesome wounds, or to some people even just the sight of blood, can ultimately lead to: shock and, if untreated, death!
Fear is a strong trigger for the same psychogenic shock in our wildlife patients (and side note to vet students: dehydration often compounds that shock in rescued and transported animals). Some wild animals will die, just because of extreme fear while being handled. This is one of the main reasons why we restrain wild animals as little as possible and it is one reason why some animals can not adapt to be captive. The simple fact of human presence, artificial environment and captivity causes too much fear. Yet when they require regular treatments, or in this case, feedings, there is no way around handling and restraining (unless we wanted to give up and euthanize the patient, which we are not willing to do in this case). So, those are just some of the odds.
But we see hope at this point! Spartacus spirits are great. He loves to watch his peers (even though is seems to disgruntle him that he has to be in small confinement due to his severe injury) and he is slowly adjusting to being fed by the „human monster“. He might come to accept the fact that the monster does not want to disembowel him (to use Paul’s language) but just feed and give him some TLC (which he is starting to allow a bit now). Orphaned wildlife is a constant struggle between avoiding imprinting on humans and providing the necessary maternal care. Without this care most will not survive. So it is good to know that Spartacus seems to be following the general trend of orphaned babies received in the program: after a few days the babies accept the human as a temporary surrogate and stop to fight. His hand is very swollen yet the tissue is still looking good and it is day 4 post-OP. Until he fully settles in, every day is crucial, but we can see first signs of „mellowing“. Tomorrow is day 5, at which point I will really get my hopes up that we can save this monkeys life, and hopefully hand. And then his freedom, which will take up to several months of patience testing rehabilitation, before the ultimate assessment, whether he would be releasable, can be made.
Here I am asking for comments again! Let me know what you think?
While we wait for the continuation of this babies’ story, I could follow recommendation and start on Amy’s story:
Amy, a keel-billed Toucan, the national bird of Belize, was found on the ground, as a fledgling, with a severe injury (I guess most of my stories as a vet involve injuries…). While her parents were still close by and trying to help and feed her when she was found, she needed serious medical care to survive. She was rescued in the week after the death of Amy Winehouse, after whom she was named. Do you care to know why?