In late October, we rescued a baby howler monkey from the Delicious area after her was found by a local staff member crying on a low branch with no other monkeys around. He had been severely attacked by an alpha male so he was lucky to have been found so quickly.
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. Alpha males attack the face of their victims, tearing off their nose, mouth and blinding them. 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.
Gabriel’s face was severely swollen and bleeding with his upper jawbone, cheekbone and nose missing and his nasal passage collapsed. His left eye had sunk down with no cheek bone to keep it in place. His injuries were so gruesome that we didn’t think he would survive. But Gabriel surprised us and after receiving pain medication and antibiotics, he was eating and had a lively spirit. He was taken to San Jose a couple days later to the Hospital de Especies Menores y Silvestres – Universidad Nacional, where his nasal passage was opened, and his eye socked and cheek bones repaired.
It is now two months later and Gabriel is thriving! His wounds have healed and he eats well, loves baby apple sauce, is learning how to eat leaves with the few teeth he has and love to play and climb and act just like any other baby howler would. His nasal passage is cleaned twice a day and his is quarantined from the larger group of babies to limit exposure to germs. Staff wear a surgical mask when feeding him to avoid spreading any viruses. Now that Gabriel’s wounds have closed, he is enjoying supervised playtime with a small group of infant howlers. He’s very playful and loves to wrestle. He still has a lot of scar tissue formed on his eye that we’re hoping can be surgically removed when he is a little older and a bit stronger. When he’s fully grown, we will begin looking for veterinarians who can do reconstructive surgery.