Every year Refuge for Wildlife rescues hundreds of monkeys and other wildlife that have been electrocuted due to uninsulated power lines and transformers. Electrocution is the #1 killer of howler monkeys in Costa Rica. Our emergency response team, of staff and volunteers, have the experience and expertise to rescue monkeys from transformers and electrical wires with specialist equipment. Our founder, Brenda Bombard has 17 years experience rehabilitating howler monkeys and other wildlife that have suffered extreme burns, amputations and other injuries from electrocution.
This is a country-wide problem, but rural areas like Nosara, are where most wildlife deaths from electrocution occur. Unfortunately monkeys do not know the difference between electrical wires and natural vines and will often travel across wires to get to feeding grounds. This is especially an issue in areas of deforestation where monkeys are faced with no other choice than to risk traveling on electrical wires. Thanks to the co-operative efforts of our Stop the Shocks Program and ICE, our electrical service provider, most of the electrical wires in the Playas de Nosara area were replaced with insulated cables many years ago. It is because of this hard work, that today our monkeys can travel without injury along many kilometres of electrical wires. There are, though, still many areas where uninsulated electrical wires are a problem and all it takes is a monkey to touch two live wires to be electrocuted. The main issue with monkeys using the wires is that attached to all wires are high voltage electrical transformers. The monkeys travel along the wires in search for food and end up needing to cross a transformer to reach the wire on the other side. These transformers are very dangerous, with many parts of the transformer able to deliver a deadly jolt of electricity to anything that touches it. Sadly, our monkeys cannot sense the danger until it’s too late. The shock is extremely painful and causes horrific electrical burns and often muscular spasms so the monkey cannot let go and sometimes even catch on fire. What is worse, is that when a member of the troop is crying out in pain, the rest of the troop will try to help which often causes several family members to become electrocuted or die.
The Stop the Shocks Program is dedicated to insulating dangerous transformers and power lines and also providing the necessary care for survivors of electrocution. This program, run by a small group of volunteers, raises funds to purchase wildlife protection equipment and medical care for the victims of electrocution.
When you make your donation to the Stop the Shocks program, you can chose to donate towards “Insulate a Transformer” or “Save the Shock Survivors”. If you decide to donate towards transformer insulation, you can specify which transformer you would like your donation to go towards – simply send us an email and let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electrocutions can be stopped. Only made possible through generous donations, our Stop the Shocks committee purchases special wildlife protection equipment that saves lives. This program has no paid staff and our local electrical company, ICE, donate their time and install this equipment for free. This means, that every cent that is donated toward insulating transformers, goes towards insulating transformers and stopping the shocks.
Each transformers is different, with different components and different lengths of cable that need to be insulated. Because of this, each transformer needs to be individually inspected by our volunteers and a quote obtained by our distributor, CFS Sistemas who provides wildlife protection equipment from MidSun in the USA. The average cost to insulate a household transformer ranges from $250-$550 USD with the average high voltage commercial transformer costing $950-$1500USD to insulate.
One dangerous uninsulated transformer can kill entire monkey troops in only a few minutes. The Stop the Shocks committee has been focusing on insulating “high-traffic” areas in an effort to prevent electrocutions. In 2016, an area with 4 high-voltage transformers that had killed and injured dozens of howler monkeys was insulated with wildlife protection equipment. This particular location was a huge problem because, due to deforestation and a main road, the monkeys had no choice but to climb across the wires and transformers to get to food resources. And now, because of the efforts of our Stop the Shocks program, this location has been accident free for more than a year! Learn more about insulating transformers
Injuries caused by electrocution is what we see most often in the Refuge for Wildlife clinic. Every year Refuge for Wildlife rescues hundreds of monkeys and other wildlife that have been electrocuted due to uninsulated power lines and transformers.
Injuries caused by electrocution are gruesome and most are fatal. The severity of the injuries will depend on where the monkey touched the transformer and whether or not they were thrown off of it. If the monkey is stuck on the wires or transformer because their muscles have contracted and they cannot let go, the injuries will be more severe and almost always fatal. Injuries range from deep burns to the hands, feet and tail, to all-over burns to the entire face and body to fatal injuries to internal organs. In the case where the monkey also caught on fire, burns are even more severe.
At our onsite clinic, our veterinarian and skilled staff are experienced with treating electrical burns. Some amputations are performed to remove decaying limbs, fingers, toes and parts of tails, but usually the best treatment is proper cleaning of the wounds, pain relief, antibiotics and silver sulfadiazine burn cream. In cases where recovery is not possible, we also provide compassionate euthanasia when necessary.
Most of our surviving electrical burn victims are infant howlers between the ages of newborn to 6 months. The reason they survive the initial electrocution is because they are holding onto their mothers. The mother absorbs most of the electrical current and the babies usually only have burns on their hands, tail and any other body part in direct contact with their mother. Some are lucky enough to have only minor burns. We are always amazed at how well infant howlers are able to adapt with their disabilities and recover with little to no scars.
Each infant must stay with us until they are old enough to be released which is around 2.5 years old. Howlers are not considered adults until they are 4 years old. Since most of the surviving electrocution victims are young infant howlers that are only a few months old, this means that they stay with us for more than two years costing an average of $120 per month for each monkey.
$120 per month provides an orphaned howler with fresh leaves, produce, infant formula, kennel for sleeping, snuggly teddy bears, hot water bottle, a shared large enclosure, 24/7 caregiver, onsite veterinary care, medication, and enrichment toys. This is the base expense for an uninjured howler. For the babies that injured due to electrocution there are additional expenses for veterinary care, medications, burn cream, bandages, amputations and rehabilitation.
Please help us by making a donation to “Insulate a Transformer” and “Save the Shock Survivors”.
Save the Shock Survivors
Insulate a Transformer
We need your help. The vitally important programs of Refuge for Wildlife are funded completely through donations from our Educational Visit Program, gifts to the Refuge and donations from the public. We receive no government funding.
Your donation is tax deductible! You will be prompted to select your payment option: PayPal or Offline Donation. For a US tax deductible donation, select “PayPal” to make a donation via Amigos of Costa Rica. For a CR tax deductible donation, select, “Offline Donation” via bank transfer.