How to find a Howler Monkey
Updated: Mar 10
(If they are not screaming at the top of their lungs of course)
Howler Monkeys live in Central and South America. They are the largest monkeys in the New World and they are also the loudest monkeys. The first time I was in the vicinity of a Howler Monkey, I didn't see it but I did hear something that sounded like hyenas tearing out each other's throats. It was petrifying. At that time, I was touring one of Belize's famous Mayan ruins and Howler Monkeys were far from my thoughts. When I did eventually go on an ecological tour to see them, it took forever to spot one.
Despite getting regular treats from their caregivers, these monkeys do what they want, when they want. The family of Howler Monkeys living at the Belize Ecolution Adventures sanctuary comprises of six members; one male, two females and their three kids. It wasn't surprising that the mom didn't want to risk her newborn baby learning bad behaviours from us humans. It took quite a lot of persuasion for them to eventually descend from the top of the forest canopy.
Luckily, we had a little bit of banana to help us along. This adventurous little monkey quickly grasped each banana piece with his nimble fingers while keeping his tail always twirled around the tree in the event that he would have to escape. It is very rare for a monkey to come down to the ground and if they do, it means that monkey has the utmost trust in his human company.
The average length of a howler monkey is about 30 inches but their tails can be as much as five times that length. They use their tails not only for moving along through trees, but also for picking out fruits nuts and hanging on for dear life.
The Belize Ecolution Adventures tour company has done amazing work in helping restore howler monkey habitat in Belize. The cutting of trees actually cuts off the monkeys ability to move from one area to another as they are so reluctant to come down to the ground. Because of this, many monkey families become isolated without food or sometimes even water. Efforts by groups like Belize Ecolution Adventures help native land owners understand how to coexist with monkeys and encourages them to plant trees on their property to restore the natural forest canopy.
Belize is actually wrapped up in a deforestation crisis. The country is home to the beautiful Rosewood trees, which make for a very popular timber, particularly in China. However, Belize cannot afford to lose any more trees than it already has over the last century. The Belize rain forest is the part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, a vital migratory pathway for Central American wildlife. In 2012, the Belizean government made the logging and exporting of Rosewood trees illegal and placed them on the endangered list. Unfortunately, slack legal enforcement has been unable to prevent the illegal logging and exporting of Belizean Rosewood.
China is currently the worlds largest timber and importer and also accounts for more than half of the world's tropical log imports. Most of the wood is used for luxury furniture, the taste for which China developed many centuries ago during the Tang and Qing periods. Today looks furniture sold on eBay, Kijiji directly from manufacturers and pretty much anywhere a Chinatown can be found. I bet you have seen this furniture more times than you realize.
The United Nations Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) lists Rosewood trees as an endangered species. It is important to support efforts by local organizations who contribute to the education, awareness and training of the local population in an attempt to protect endangered species.
What has all that got to do with trying to find a Howler Monkey? Well, if there are no trees, there are no monkeys it's that simple.
If you do find yourself in Belize City, I highly recommend taking the 20 minute drive into the interior, towards Burmudian Landing, to visit this monkey sanctuary in person. And if you get hungry, they do have their own Creole kitchen on site serving up absolutely amazing local dishes.
To find out more about the Rosewood logging crisis click HERE.
Map to the monkeys in Belize click HERE.
Traveling in Belize
I recommend renting a car, which is easily done right across the parking lot of Belize City airport. Just make sure that you have adequate travel insurance in the event that your car suffers a hiccup.
There are also public buses that can take you between cities.
If you don't want to do either, there are a plethora of tour companies that will happily take your monies to drive you around to the major tourist sites. You will definitely need a bigger budget for this luxury.